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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.


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