Spring comes late to Northern Pennsylvania, the heads of new trout lilies

bent with the last smattering of snow. Chickadees chatter in the crook

of a magnolia that won’t bloom for two more weeks, but still I return to it,

hoping the gray pods will have broken open overnight.


Like a spoon scraping the bottom of a tin bowl, Mama’s voice

scratches through the phone, saying transplant, saying 30% chance.

I strip off my mittens, heave myself into the tree.


I know what questions to ask, the language of cancer lodged

in my mouth like a rotted tooth, but instead I say

my visa came today, tell her about my unsmiling photo,

how the seal shimmers and reads étudiant.


I could stay, I tell Mama, because I have to—

because that’s what a good daughter does.

I say, I could give you my marrow and mean

I could give you my year in Toulouse. Take it.


Take the chocolate heart spun into the center of a tartine,

take the Basilique Saint-Sernin’s hourly racket of bells,

take the peacock feather from the Jardin des Plantes,

where roses reach full bloom by mid-February.


In the pause that follows, I wish there were leaves

for the wind to tremble through instead of just my scarf,

its tassels twirling as if for joy.


You’re not the right blood type, she tells me. Don’t stay.

I don’t know whether to say thank you or I’m sorry so I settle

for I love you, and she says she loves me too, says I’ll let you go now,


as if she hasn’t done that already. When I hang up the phone,

I break a pod soft as a caterpillar from the branch beside me and split it

with my thumbnail, bury my nose in the petals still tightly wrapped.

I want to smell spring, even if I have to kill something.


Emily Rose Cole is a writer and lyricist from Pennsylvania. She has received awards from Jabberwock Review, Ruminate Magazine, and the Academy of American Poets, and her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Nimrod, Spoon River Poetry Review, Yemassee, and Passages North, among others. She holds an MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is currently a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati. You can reach her via her website at