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Mary Ellen Shrock Emley

The season’s air leans against me

in a city you never saw, and surrounding it,

the Sandias pour like blood from a slow winter shroud

as if heaven were cut down the belly.

I wish you could smell the juniper pine: bitter, sweetly

charged in a landscape where loveliness grows like a protest

in a country that continued to gut itself this year,

where nestled in every Christmas firework is the memory of a bullet,

terrible and thrilling, like the echo from your bedroom

where your husband cleaned his shotgun,

how I remember you singing but can’t hear the voice.

Let me confess, I don’t think I really knew you.

I read the Bible so we can share a language,

replay in my head the night of the funeral

when your sister revealed your love of Kahlil Gibran,

and I’m learning we come to understand the dead in pieces,

that I know you like a city I lived in once

and return to as a tourist. I’m making a home

of nights like these, their tender nostalgia,

brittle with cold in the season you ached me into,

where even the stars are faking it,

like any of the living, burning only to imagine

what shapes we could cast against the dark.

Bryce Emley

Bryce Emley is the author of the prose chapbooks A Brief Family History of
(winner of the 2018 Sonder Press Chapbook Prize) and Smoke and
(Folded Word, 2018). He works in marketing at the University of New
Mexico Press and is Poetry Editor of Raleigh Review. Read more at