For twenty years I have been standing
in that hallway, looking through the opening

wound of a window in the classroom door to see
how even if angled this way or this way no

one saw anything other than white washed
over the classroom’s cinder blocks, as if

paint were all it took to cover up the fact
that my teacher’s body should not have stood

so close to my body. I built my memory
into a wall of my own willingness to believe

my own body was to blame for where
her yes went, where her hands went when I

told myself nobody could’ve seen the way
her body bent into mine. For twenty years I

have been cornered in the corner of her
classroom washed white as the skin where

I felt her hands and her hands and her hands
couldn’t have — I knew even then — angled

me in any way that made me invisible
to the any of the ones who walked by the door

and its window, the whitewash, the glass
– how many someones had to, had to have

seen and kept walking along with the silence they
whited me into for all of the years in which no

matter how far it walked or ran my body
couldn’t get away from the blame her

hands taught me to hold even after I learned
it wasn’t that no one was looking but

that no one wanted the trouble. It was
easy. To let me take the blame.

                           MAY QUEEN

                                    I didn’t mean to lose                          him I didn’t mean to
                                    over     come I never thought                   I’d rule the law
                                    but hell if the law was going to rule me                I took

                                    some time in the market               took my basket filled
                                    with fragrance & let the air speak                        I wasn’t

                                    equipped with a camera                 a fish eye             a lens
                                    magnifying the way he sounded in my mouth              I
                                    was always choking                      down the words I used

                                    to tell myself he’d tell me      I was wrong            I wasn’t
                                    an ache or an entryway        I was not what Sister said

                                    I should be         wasn’t blonde or holy &        no        light
                                    arced its halo      around my forehead  I felt the crown
                                    of flowers become a crowd         of thorns where were

                                    the saints              when my prayers most desperate ran
                                    it didn’t take long to choke the good down        it didn’t

                                    take long to choke        through the gospel acclamation
                                    alleluia I        repented I          converted I             confused
                                    in both my mouth & mind            his name & god’s name

                                    & who        had I after all been taught        I had to praise


In our numbered days together it was clear: the present
was its own danger. He gassed the lamp that lit my spine,

a series of diamonds betrayed by my own as flesh.
What little joy I found in my wonders, in the honeyed

home that summer made of my two hands. He read couldn’t
as wouldn’t, possibility as a sentence enforced by parentheses.

I grew used to living in the betweens. I grew used to
the way a sweater gets used to hanging, the way a duck’s neck

dries sweet in the loop of its noose. Violence is a corollary
to the permission to close the self. A door. What choice

had I. I stayed with my quiets under thumb, I told myself there
was light there, buttoned into the holes each star made out of space.

Emma Bolden @emmabo is the author of House Is An Enigma (Southeast Missouri State University Press), medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press), and Maleficae (GenPop Books). The recipient of an NEA Fellowship, her work has appeared in The Norton Introduction to Literature, The Best American Poetry, and such journals as the Mississippi Review, The Rumpus, StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, New Madrid, TriQuarterly, Shenandoah, and the Greensboro Review. She serves as Associate Editor-in-Chief for Tupelo Quarterly. Visit her online at

Banner Image “Untitled” (2019) by Cathy Daley. Cathy Daley is a Canadian visual artist whose drawings are widely shown and collected in Canada and internationally. She teaches at OCADU in Toronto and is the recipient of many grants and awards. She is represented by Zweigstelle Berlin and Augsburg Contemporary and Newzones Gallery, Canada. Website: Tweets at: @CathyDaley1