Forget the Middle Years

The decade opens and shuts like a cat’s jaw.

I am thirteen, burying my fist in the year of no friends,
and then I am twenty-three and my fist is a closing door.

I squeeze my hand shut around a current of warm air.
Open it wide. Let drop a startled bird,
not stunned but suddenly upside-down and screaming
as it tumbles through ruined weather.

The decade opens and shuts on billions of birds,
but I only ever manage to catch the one.

I am thirteen, folding paper and grimacing
because I cannot follow directions.

Then I am twenty-three, snapping shut a box
of paper cards. On every card, a little fortune.
In every little fortune, reminders of a bird.

There are feathers in my hair and feathers in my fist
and feathers in my throat and I choke on the bird
that I caught and then dropped and then caught again.

I consider the bird in three parts.
Three parts, three lives, one decade, beginning and end.

I grab what I can save. Break what I can grab.
Blame the weather, warm as it is this January.

Every era begins and ends in flames,
if not in feathers. I open my mouth
and refuse to take it all in.

Emory Rose (they/them) is a graduate student and perpetual wanderer currently living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Their poetry has appeared in Third Point PressHalf Mystic, Inklette, Counterclock, Rascal and Passengers Journal, among other publications (although much of that poetry was published under their deadname).