Terror Management Theory – Emma Bolden

                     To think when I was a child all of my adults 
                     walked into & out of doors like I now do, fearing 
                     death & taxes, tasting the bitter tongue of some 

                     ending I’ll be forced to kiss. When I was a child 
                     on beach vacations I counted the number of days 
                     we’d already been there & the number of days 

                     we had left & it scared me in the same way the sea 
                     scared me. All of that, unfathomable. An endlessness 
                     both empty & full. When I hold a shell to my ear 

                     it tells me its best rumors in a language inexplicable 
                     except to say it does not belong to me. What does 
                     belong to me. Can I try hard enough to believe I am 

                     living with this body like a very good pet, can I 
                     believe that if I care for it well this body will follow 
                     my will, quiet, quiet, will heel & heal & stay, stay, stay. 

                     As a child I kept a glass tank full of goldfish who 
                     swam & shat & worked their best at their job, which 
                     was dying. Later my mother explained the aquarium 

                     as the place where children gently learn about death. 
                     No matter how many or much we love. No matter
                     the treasure chest no matter the castle no matter 

                     how neon the gravel no matter how many Saturdays 
                     my father cussed the glass & the hosepipe & the sun 
                     that pink-stained his skin to mark each hour he spent 

                     cleaning the tank. Sun translated as burn as bad mole, 
                     as cells making their own decisions. To die. To share 
                     their dying. Every moment we believe we are living 

                     without believing we are also dying is a very good lie 
                     like alchemy, like any theory regarding the beautiful 
                     preservation of gold. The first second third & every 

                     time I looked into the fish tank & saw death – 
                     bloated sacks of scaled skin, rot-gunned, reeking – 
                     I couldn’t get over. I couldn’t stop hearing what 

                     the shell told me, which was all that I would never 
                     understand. A life is always both empty & full.
Emma Bolden

Emma Bolden is the author of House Is An Enigma (SEMO Press), medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press), Maleficae (GenPop Books), and four chapbooks. A 2017 NEA Fellow in Poetry, her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, The Best Small Fictions, and Poetry Daily. She is Associate Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Quarterly.

1 Comment

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Allegrareply
September 9, 2019 at 9:16 PM

So true…life both empty and full

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