Emily Wills — Poems

Poem, 'The Seagull Now Eating my Sandwich' from The Rialto

The Touch

You tie my scarf so it drapes like Madonna's,
you cajole my motherish hair
still having to reach up – yes – but only
the slightest incline of your wrists,
your gaze, as you stand

just beyond armslength,
your serious mouth, your father's eyes
appraising, making the best of me

as if I were other
as if I did not touch you first.

From Unmapped

Domestic Confessional

I am trying to write a manly poem.

You would think, in this twenty-first century
postmodern have-it-all, this would be easy. You might say
that the programming of multiple white goods

has rendered obsolete words like fairy and marigold –
you might observe that we all have to eat –
but such concerns do not belong in the manly poem.

The manly poem may sit at a desk of managed forest
or cheap laminate, brew unsourced coffee, stare out perceptively
at a pedestrian crossing, a rank of bins, a potted plant

the manly poem has – presumably – a navel, with its fascinator
of blue fluff, but on these things both muse and man
must be silent. For the manly poem

is a crystal of pure thought, with no bodily needs,
apart from sex, of course – the consequences of which
may occasionally be permitted to enter

provided they wash their hands. Alas, there is no soap
or running water in the manly poem
and the children are hungry or sulky or tired –

For the manly poem, despite its umbilical scar, arrived
fully formed, punctuated with profound utterances,
a tendency to syllable count

and complex forms; also politics, apocalypses,
great themes. The manly poem
has a purpose, the manly poem must Lead The Way –

but with such rules, taboos, and no breakfast, the Inner Critic
– vestigial, but still lurking – convulses and dies,
not literally, you understand, with a lingering quotation,

but in the usual mess of grief and bodily fluids
which have to be dealt with, of course,
in another kind of poem.

From Unmapped

The Afterlife

I sit my uncle down in Stackhouse Cove,
his skull sunburning, for he's lost,
on the journey here, his knotted handkerchief.
I sit him down, adjust his emptied ribs

for all his old songs to whistle through,
smooth his heelbones into the sand
so nothing chafes. I sit him down
in the long-drawn-out of a tide so low

I doubt it will ever come in again,
and if he could speak, having been dead
so many years, he’d say Not bored, exactly,
just in a state of suspended animation

and still unable to think of a witty reply
I’d say nothing, dazzled by the far off glittery
unturning sea, both of us marvelling
at the terrible tedium of eternity.

Published in Magma 63, November 2015

Half Brother

You’re half-hitched to the tree,
half-hearted in the hide and hide
of hunt the family. The most I’ve seen:
a white shawl, cradled like a crescent moon,
lit by the minim of your mother’s face,
and our father, smiling.

All through that semitone grey light
of growing up an only,
I didn’t know. I learned half lives
go on for always, that half empty
is called half full, and half a loaf
is, for some reason, better.

Perhaps you’re good with numbers
imaginary and real; perhaps you understand
the uncertainty principle I can name
but never figure out. Fractions are easier:
half is always one of two
equal parts.

Except for half truths,
always moving, midway between ebb
and flow, impossible to measure
accurately at any one point in time.

From Developing the Negative

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