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Being Born

I watched mayfly larvae
above a stream
making their kind anew.

Last night,
under a plankton bloom of stars
I thought about it,
my first accomplishment,
the entrance exam
given without consent.

I don’t remember
twirling in warm dark,
fuzzed in fur,
greased with vernix,
sucking my thumb,
not knowing
it belonged to me
and was a thumb,

or being thrust
into a nova
of exploding light,
pulse after pulse
of fiery gas
forced into
each dazzled cell.

I don’t remember
whether stars danced
or rain blurred the windows.
I don’t remember
the hands
hefting, swaddling,
kind or impersonal.

I knew no more
than a crocus goblet
green and sturdy
through a March snow
the how of it or the why,
the raw insistence
on emergence.

Scooped from a cauldron
of gene soup,
I beat the odds,
a universe.


These questions you ask me
with your eyes

I would answer yes
to you always
yes  yes  yes

I would sugar your strawberries
with my yes

I would pack yes
into your lunches with the cookies,
crack and peel the hardest days,
and wrap them in the foil
of my shielding yes

At night,
feeling my way
to your stabled bodies
I find that you have moved
out of the house
out of the yard,
into spaces
I can’t share.

I promise you
a waking passport
out of the country of casual knives
that slash because you are
too small too tall too blue too red.

I promise you
something better than a promise.

You will grow
out of clothes too tight for you,
the garments of smaller persuasions.

You will grow
to imagine

You will grow
up  out of the leaf
out of the shadow
of my yes.

Letter to Kathleen

Kathy my friend,
how good to speak to you again.

over the years
I’ve had some
faulty connections.

When I dial yesterday
I get
or the recording.

But you,
how have you kept that voice,
butter brickle Hennessey
carbon steel vanadium,
slicing through our frozen
chunk of time?

Your voice has always been here with me
buried in warm sand
behind my eyes.


many beg for a message
a whisper,
a shadow against the shade.

The milkmaid cried
Come come oh come.
Krishna did not choose to come.

but you do not even need
to be listening
to be for me.

Yet, here you are.


How has it been
with me?

I settled,
a pioneer, broken,
whose eyes
couldn’t make it
over the mountains.

sometimes I was parsley
on the platter for the ride,
a garnish uneaten.

I was a clear vase
filled with flowering light.

my bones were added to the milk
for extra calcium.


Kathy, even if you are
a wish ful-figment

for me
you are vine-clad,
green and primrose

Your laugh floats
petal by petal, plucked
at the expense of thorns.


even if you are
too good to be true

true as Lad A Dog
true as milkweed pods
sailing milkweed silk
you are true
for me.


You are a granary
hoarded against lean years.

You are a Swiss Army knife,
many blades and all keen.

You are a stone that knows north.

You are holy.
I enshrined you.

You are a talisman.
I won’t give you up.

Emilie Buchwald's poems have been published in The American Scholar, Great River Review, Harper’s, the Kenyon Review, The Lyric, When Women Look at Men, and others. A book of her poems will be published by Nodin Press this coming September. She was editor of The Poetry Society of America’s Wallace Stevens Centenary Celebration publication; the coeditor of three poetry anthologies and the editor of three nonfiction anthologies in her role as founding copublisher/editor, emeritus, of Milkweed Editions.

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