Originally appearing in Flypaper Poetry Issue VII.
Emma Bolden is the author of House Is An Enigma (SEMo Press, 2018), medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press, 2016) and Maleficae (GenPop Books, 2013). The recipient of a 2017 NEA Fellowship, she serves as Associate Editor-in-Chief for Tupelo Quarterly. Emma Bolden’s poetry and prose has appeared (or will soon appear) in such journals as the Black Warrior Review, Puerto del Sol, Shenandoah, New Madrid, the Mississippi Review, TriQuarterly, Story Quarterly, The Pinch, Waccamaw, The Rumpus, Prairie Schooner, Conduit, the Indiana Review, the Greensboro Review, Redivider, Verse, Feminist Studies, The Journal, Guernica, and Copper Nickel. Bolden has been featured on Poetry Daily and in Verse Daily’s Web Weekly series, and her work was chosen for inclusion in Best Small Fictions 2015, Best American Poetry 2015, and The Norton Introduction to Literature (13th Edition).
What Women's Work Is
A fist in the blender. A hook of hunger
handing out free dinners to a swarm of fins.
A hunger without a hook, without a fish.
The bones of a fish whose flesh finned off
in the mouth of a black cat. A black cat’s back.
My own back turned or against the wall: no
other options. My eighty cents to his dollar. My human
to his resources. My heart blessed but God knows
why she didn’t know she shouldn’t have spoken out
of her place. My first place is his last place, lit yellow as a sign.
Dead end. My yellow belly cowarded, quiet. My good
girl. My silence wild in the mouth I’m paid to keep shut.