The Truth Is
Quiet woman polished bright by nerves, I once felt edgy
for dying the ends of my hair purple. The hairdresser
asked if I had anyone special. I dated a man
who held a good job and liked museums. Walking,
we saw a drunk girl in a leather skirt—heels
hobbling down shopping-center cobblestone,
her thin bird-arm linked through a friend’s.
He rolled his eyes, said, do you go out wearing skirts
like that? On the dating app, I wrote: loves dogs
and mimosas. It wasn’t a lie, but I am
such a liar. For example, I told that guy yes,
I have a skirt just like that because he pissed me off,
and I say I’m fine with whatever or this is stupid,
but I’m concerned I may be nothing more
than a very nice lady, and soft in the hands
of whoever will take me, that I carry anger around
like a weak religion—a presence absent
from my actions, muted and reserved
for occasional ceremony. I’ve heard of planting
St. Joseph’s statue upside down in the yard
to sell a house, but have found no trick to marketing
my internal monologue. The truth is, I want
to keep the bright mess of my dog heart.
The ground behind my home is ungroomed
anyways—crows and mulch, squirrels
searching the dirt for what they’ve buried.
God Promised Trouble
I can name a handful of deaths this year, and I have yet
to rise from any of them. Someone on the internet posts
how many times the Bible says be not afraid. It’s a lot.
It’s instruction I fail to follow, words that grow into
accusation, like a memory swimming up from the dark
sleep of my brain. Not everything can be redemption.
My aunt tells me she only likes sad books now. Sad
-sad, she texts, not even hopeful ones. Lately, I quote
risen Jesus just before he overcomes the earth and says
take heart. I repeat: In this world, you will have
trouble, full stop, and it’s inspirational, the full chorus
of a hymn, honest as a winged beetle trapped in the
rafters of my soul, honest at the gas station, at the
office, at the wake: In this world, you will have trouble.
I keep existing right in the middle of a thousand
endings. I dig the present into a grave, turn from myself
to tomorrow, a vase of dead flowers on my kitchen
table, rerun paused, fridge making a steady hum. A
man reads a poem on a video call, the chat box a litany
of praise. Someone writes, I love the color of the room
you’re in, love the window, and the words float up,
unanswered—a short ode of the lonely, a prayer that
doesn’t thank or request. When I cry in my living
room, God sits beside me and mourns with human
frenzy, offers nothing to explain it. He says, look at the
color of this room we’re in, and then I try to love it.
EMILY CINQUEMANI’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in NELLE, Poetry Northwest, Ploughshares, Colorado Review, Indiana Review, Southern Indiana Review, 32 Poems, Nashville Review, Cherry Tree, and Meridian. She teaches at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities.