Ghazal with Cave, Wellbore & Millions of Branches
Light shackles itself between my father’s old oaks in Pennsylvania.
As a child, I thought my state’s name meant branch—Pennsylvania
the same as laurel, the same as cedar, maple, hemlock those trees my cheap state
school named its dorms after (you wouldn’t know it, up in northern Pennsylvania).
I called my first love’s eyes huckleberry as if I could dip my fingernails
into her Indiana veins, stain my cuticles with the blue juice of Pennsylvania.
Where are all the trees, I asked as we barreled down I-70, her homeplace flat
as a Play-Doh pancake stamped with God’s palmprint (I meant where is Pennsylvania?).
Once I spent all night singing in a cave (live album, stalactites spitting water down
my neck) & wondered about the men buried in the slack mouths of Pennsylvania.
There’s an old folksong says colliers gave the fire to forge the steel that made
the tools for industry. All that fire & steel bound up in blood & Pennsylvania.
Coal’s gone now. Steel, too. But I’ve heard the trucks battering up & down
Route 6: wellbore, wastewater, frack fluid, the new machinery of Pennsylvania.
Don’t drink from the taps, they warned us at school. Cancer
rate’s tripled. The Saudi Arabia of Natural Gas, that’s Pennsylvania.
Pee-Ay’s big break, our governor assured us. Overnight millionaires.
Geysers of gold churning beneath the farmlands of Pennsylvania.
The only gold I want anymore is honey tongued straight from the comb,
the kind I used to get at the Apple Butter Frolic in Harleysville, PA.
Here in southern Illinois, the same train rattles through for years.
Dear train, does the sap tapped from my throat still sing Pennsylvania?
In college, my friend Wes nicknamed me after the beast lumbering down
our black-burred mountains: Cole-train. I’ve never loved a name more, Pennsylvania.
Nocturne with Supermoon & MS Relapse
Both begin almost the same: heavy dark, a sense
of cresting. Both omens—glyph of scalded oolong,
twisted lifeline. Love, if you hadn’t texted go outside
you must see it, I wouldn’t have left my couch.
I almost said you know how the Little Mermaid
felt like she was walking on knives? It’s not that,
but it’s close. Despite the serrations in each step,
my elastic bladder, the addling cloak tossed over
the brain I call, on my good days, honeycombed
& on my bad ones damaged, I left the house
because you said must.
Because I wanted to imagine
we were witnessing this fragment of astral history
from the same city. We’d play our simile game,
me asking what does it look like, you humming back
rocketship taillight, glowering white face, warhead’s
spluttering plunge & I’d take your pointer finger,
trace it over cracks & craters almost close
enough to touch, murmur: my brain, if it glowed.
Author Bio: Emily Rose Cole is the author of Love and a Loaded Gun, a chapbook of persona poems from Minerva Rising Press. She has received awards from Jabberwock Review, Philadelphia Stories, Ruminate Magazine and the Academy of American Poets. Her poetry has appeared most recently in Nimrod, Phoebe, Raleigh Review, and Southern Indiana Review, among others. She holds an MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is pursuing her PhD at the University of Cincinnati, where she teaches creative writing and composition.