Emily Kendal Frey





You did this thing where you'd attempt

to catch the spit I spit out in the shower.

I'd never been that close to anyone.

I felt you wanted even the extra bits

of me. You would cherish my run-off.

Sometimes it was alarming—you kneeling

on the kitchen floor to kiss my hips

as I cooked. The clunky misshape

of adoration. But other times I let

myself be navigated—so what

if you saw my sluff or sorry awkwardness?

There was a time when I thought

you might be able to hold it right.





When you wrote songs

I knew they weren't for me.

You were singing to a woman

who wasn't there.

I'd sit in my white nightgown

like a ghost, watching you.

Eyes rolling back

as you sang,

it was obviously better

than the real thing.

Still, we made it over and over,

me half off the rotting couch

or falling from whatever it was

that held us in place.






Winter softens me.

The snow blues with anti-slip crystals

and I'm too busy keeping warm

to stay angry.

The long rectangles of memory

are shortening and you come more

as you were, in bursts—

tall, antsy, full of vigor.

In the paper there's an article,

a pair of skeletons

unearthed in an embrace.

"We will work

to keep them together,"

officials claim. The final

tragedy of separation:

a body taken, bone by bone

from its resting place.

Mornings after a snowstorm

we'd lie in the bed

made light by the huge amount

of white around us. I'd keep

as still as I could, as if

our imprint were something

we could fortify, take with us

into the world outside.






Early rise, train rider, self left along

the highway, I'm coming! I'm coming!

Show me the salt bays and the women

hanging like birds from clotheslines.




The Work of Beauty Is Not Solitary Work


God and I sit together

by the lake.


Words scrape

at the back of my throat

as the lips of peonies

open to reveal rows

of black ants.


I wish you had not spoken

to me, I say, thinking

of a book I'd read—

one person very near,

one waiting across a river

of glowing trout.


Time slides and tilts,

high clouds squeezed like q-tips

swabbing the sky


as the blue belly of the lake

keeps rising.


The words are mine.


Holy, holy

lower me down.

The rusted anchor

drops its weight.


Holy, holy

drag me down.


Black water

monster, yellow-eyed,

I have teeth.