Emma Bolden

The First Trumpet

I learned the sound of the center of winter:
a cord of wood flint-struck into smoke.
By this time my country heard every emergency

the radio gave us as a buzz, wasp-small. By this
time my country was no longer a country, nor
was it mine. Nor was I its.  Soon we had torched

our simplest valleys, taught ourselves to identify green
as an enemy. We watched bodies fall in the streets
and on our screens and every emergency was a buzz.

Wasp-small. The sound of a child screaming
with its mouth pressed against glass heard
as unheard from the other side of the glass.

From the interior we declared every exterior
an enemy. And inside our small houses kettles still
boiled themselves into shrill but manageable

alarm. By this time my country watched bodies
fall and refused to acknowledge. We were the hand
that held the gun. Ricochet and buckshot.

The sounds of a species ready for an oblivion
with which we were so comfortable
we gave it the name of God.


Emma Bolden is the author of House Is An Enigma (SEMO Press), medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press), Maleficae (GenPop Books) and four chapbooks. A 2017 NEA Fellow in Poetry, her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, The Norton Introduction to Literature, The Best Small Fictions, and Poetry Daily. She is Associate Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Quarterly.