A Lady Doesn’t Talk and Red Blood Blues
A Lady Doesn’t Talk
God or politics. She doesn’t take a stand
sweet as a lawn necklaced by trees & never
mind all those azaleas pink-shined, April’d
into hotbright, into bloombold, into an un-
seemly admission of those neon pleasures
a lady must leave to men. A lady must pastel.
Must imagine her as a self petalled, a perfumed
flotilla, grace prayered & public as a restaurant’s
baskets of free bread. Must imagine bloom
as an open dependent on its own shut. Must shine
a silver of a glass with a mirror for a bottom.
Must try to be the note rose water leaves when
sprayed white against linen, to live as promissory
for men & their suits, a three-pieced factory tuned
to mass, producing those moneys like a mint
leaf sunk. Julep-sludge. Not too sick, just sweet
as a baby Jesus painted into peace, His blue
eyes holy hidden by the sugar of His sleep.
Red Blood Blues
When I was born, Alabama, you searched me
from skull to sacrum to see if my spine
banked into a curve, dollar-signed up, then zip-
coded my worth into the address on my birth
certificate. Back woods. Bad bramble. Born thorn-
bush bottomed, twang spooned in to rough up
my tongue. Alabama, you taught me a rose couldn’t
be a rose if its grandma was a weed. Still, we wouldn’t
be whet. So we women sowed our names into gardens
while you sent our men mining, milled under
ground for your green. You stole their lives and lungs
for the steel that built the city where your bills
reigned heavy in their fatback stacks. Old money.
You silvered men who, gold-chained to their fathers’
bank vaulted over us. Alabama, you fed us dust until
in dust we became able. We took back our breath.
We straightened, stood. Every ash is its own ember.
Remember. Even the mighty fall down if flamed.
Emma Bolden is the author of three full-length collections of poetry — House Is An Enigma (forthcoming from Southeast Missouri State U.P.), medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press, 2016) and Maleficae (GenPop Books, 2013) – and four chapbooks. The recipient of a 2017 Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA, her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, The Best Small Fictions, and such journals as the Mississippi Review, The Rumpus, StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, New Madrid, TriQuarterly, the Indiana Review, Shenandoah, the Greensboro Review, and The Journal. She currently serves as Associate Editor-in-Chief for Tupelo Quarterly.