Emma Timbers, Selections from “Harpoon”




Soft into the woods.

You with your glasses,

red sweater, me

holding a little white

bird in my heart.

It is dusk and the trees

are deep.  At the lake

we share a burrito quietly,

handing it back and forth.

The black water is lit

a thousand colors and you say

I wonder if we can see

every color there is right now.

Your legs are crossed.

I know you. The sand

is cold, shifting between toes.

Funny to be alone

in nature with someone,

I say.  Feels like a dream.

We are looking out

in the same direction and you tell me

you wouldn’t be surprised if a

sea monster were to suddenly

emerge from the water

in front of us.  It’s that

kind of dream.  You know?

I do, and we laugh.

We are sitting

in the lifeguard chair,

white paint peeling.

You find a forgotten pair

of sparkly pink sunglasses

next to you, try them on.

How do I look?  So good,

I say.  The sun is almost gone.

I think I want to go in.

Me too. Okay, so we are peeling

layers—sweater, skirt,

tights.  We step

into the water slowly,

toes golden

in the dirt, and it’s

surprisingly warm.

You dive first.  I follow.

Water in ears, hair

spreading and I kick up

little splashes with

my feet.  You aren’t far.

We swim a little

towards the middle,

white light rippling.

All I can hear is your breathing

as we swim.

I feel like a creature,

I say.  My golden belly

emerging.  We move

closer to shore, press our feet

into the soft lake bottom,

let our palms rest flat

on the surface.

I cup my hands, slap

the water—it booms.

Here, like this.  I take

your hands, fold them

just so.  Okay close

your eyes, you say,

and your hands are close—

you miss me and I slip

It is dark and we

are shivering.

For the first time

I am afraid

to say your name.




Wet roof—

lightning storm

flashes across the sky.

Dark clouds light up and

shimmer back and forth

fluorescent whip


The wind lifts

my dress


Spat of cold rain


In my room the curtains

blow gold


Bare feet on the

wet rubber

I stand wide

and raise my glass—

hard cider


Rain on my face

my hair

dress filled

with wind


Come at me, you


of wildness—

I want

to burn


Arms raised—












Gold glitter on eyes, white rabbit pelt over shoulders. Tonight

I am a duchess, all ice and power. I won’t take any shit tonight.


We stand in the kitchen drinking brandy out of wineglasses. Soft lamplight.

White gloves. I lean against the kitchen counter. I feel nothing for you tonight.


Snow falls thickly. I am laughing, drink in one hand, cigarette holder in the other.

You arrive. I watch through dark sunglasses. I won’t give, tonight.


I walk from room to room in my heels. Yellow roses framed on the wall. Annihilate

the being into a diamond, says André Breton. I feel a cruelty in me tonight.


We take photos against the white wall. I am next to you. Relieved to feel cruel.

I pose with my gloved hand on my hip. Green velvet dress. What am I doing tonight.


You leave. I am still holding my fake cigarette. Laughing. Annihilate the being

into a diamond, Em. Dark sunglasses. White gloves. Red lipstick. I am flawless tonight.






On our run,

I ask my brother:

So.  With the people

you have loved—

he laughs—

does it always

feel the same?


We are

prancing through

slush, soaking

our shoes—


That’s a good question

he says.

I guess I’ve been

a different person every time,

but the feeling is similar.


The ice is slippery

and we run single-file

through a patch of snow.

When I catch up, I say:


Does it ever feel like

you’re talking to your own soul?


Haha, he says.  No, I guess

I’ve never had that, quite.


I laugh too.  I laugh and

laugh, because it’s funny,

it is all just so funny,

running through slush

with both of our

hurting hearts,

and the ice on the creek

beginning to melt,

and our legs bare and bright,

faces flushed,

cold hands curled

into fists.






The mom calls

the daughter

as the daughter is

walking up the stairs.


I’m just calling to tell you

that Purple Girl

is in your future!


She’s a little fatty


Her sweet little paws


Her sweet little belly


I’m going to pad the legs

of the piano


That is so exciting

the daughter says

Wow that is so



While she touches

the peeling edge

of the bookcase.


The girl in New York

calls the girl in Maine:


I can’t hear you Emma


I’m drinking a smoothie


“I’m still in bed—

I can’t open my eyes yet”

says the girl




Walking across the quad

she leaves a message

on an answering machine:


Hey! It’s me, just calling

to say hi and see how you are…

Call whenever! Love you,

talk to you soon! Okay bye.




All day hydrangea petals fall on her,

light purple and blue


Her phone does not

ring again and she


sits looking at the green armchair

by the window, both light and

dark in the light, thinking


Why didn’t I tell them

about this


the petals







Slimy pink

fish mouth


fish pink

mouth kiss


Who am I

going to hook up with


says someone smushed

against the door


Everyone is very small

in their bodies


The bodies are twice the size

of the people, and growing


One person’s body is so big

he doesn’t know how to maneuver it,


trips against someone else.

One person is crying in the bathroom


because she can’t remember the difference

between her body and what happens to it


Other people are celebrating the fact

that their bodies are so big—


fuck the little people we are inside

the body people think.


At the edge of this party,

I miss you.


This is the secret

I want to tell people:


I miss someone

I love someone and it

really hurts


But I don’t say that.


I hold this card

like a tongue

in my breast pocket,


stepping around people

I don’t know, laughing.


No one, not even you,

can take this away from me.


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