Illustrating Emily

by Bryce Berkowitz

after Kim Addonizio

She hangs around, bestowing new doubt to your friends
or else she disappears over the long weekend.
She shows up again mid-week, when you’re finally sober,

like someone passing through town who just invited you to dinner.
She allows you to search, then provides variant meanings.
When you lie in bed

she shares her most intimate concerns of the war,
of birds that flit from branch to page—like ones from your past
that you’re over now. One time she writes about a man

who you think oddly resembles someone you know
until your uncertainty grows weary and eternity seems
less like a sunset and more like a sentence. She’s happy

and wants you to be the first one to know—
or she might be dying, or could use a walk—
and if her heart was still beating, to know it wouldn’t be for you

but then, as with so many others, she shows up in your dreams,
not her per-se but, someone who could be her, calling your name
from inside of a dresser where she’s buried rows of letters

and the scripted words are difficult to understand; like so many farewells
you’ve seen lately. Some nights their voices float into bed with you,
their soft whisper muffled by the thin pillowcase; the tone dissatisfied and lazy.

You’ve been on my mind lately, but that’s fair. It’s the same way
the last girl spoke to you from the doorway
before you pulled the plug on the tiny white lights

above the bed, and she moved against the dark,
occasionally sullied by the brief flash
of headlights from trucks passing over the bridge,

the growler engines that rove and junket,
that tote their cargo between towns, factories,
pursuing the familiar routes of their solitude.


Bryce Berkowitz‘s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets, The Sewanee Review, Ninth Letter, Third Coast, Nashville Review, Salt Hill, the minnesota review, and other publications.

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