Bryce Emley
Prayer for Return

          Let it be enough for me
just to see something beautiful,

knowing I couldn’t create it,
          only more renditions

of the intimate violences
          that made us. Father,

          let me hold you
like wind in my hands,

          I want to feel you passing
through my fingers, to feel

again like a stranger
          in another’s blood, the burden

of a man she could love enough
          to undo her. I want us

          to know our fathers
as more than the gods we inherit,

          to keep arriving into these brutal
and elegant days carrying

more of the one who made me
          than the breath

I gathered from her lungs,
          to know you the way

          we can never know
our mothers, mirrors in empty rooms.

Apostrophe for My Mother's Ghost

Let me carry another piece of you into the mirror:

blue vein, olive eye, every breath
a ghost erasing itself from a windowpane.

Some nights, all I do is sleep. I keep a length of rosethorn
curled in my sheets, say your name until it sounds like prayer,

until my tongue becomes a plot where praise still grows.
Mother, the flowers we thought had died with you

are blooming little fires in the garden now.
I’m gathering petals, collecting tinctures,

mortar and pestle, spreading poultice on my temples—

what’s wrong with me?
My own life feels like a rendition of another’s.

I keep waking back into myself every morning
waiting for time to set its teeth into my wrists.

Mother, I watched you fade
like blossoms into winter. Let me create you

in my being-here, even as I speak
and cannot speak you back into being,

be the space a breath leaves behind as I release it.

Bryce Emley is the author of the prose chapbooks A Brief Family History of Drowning (winner of the 2018 Sonder Press Chapbook Prize) and Smoke and Glass (Folded Word, 2018). He works in marketing at the University of New Mexico Press and is Co-Editor of Raleigh Review. Read more at