Reasons to Travel to Another Country
Emily Paige Wilson
Because borders blur like the burn between
red and orange. Because time travel is not
a forward fold or backward bend; it’s been
a matter of latitude all along. Because your palm
fragmented into five fingers is your body’s
warning against settling into one place.
Because you don’t yet know if you are
the bee or the pollen. Because you have
memories patient to be unlocked by certain
scents. Because loneliness is no medicine.
Because your grandparents stored secrets
in some far away shore. Because happiness
is as good a catalyst as any. Because who will
remind you how fragile your face is? Because
only those who haven’t seen polar lights
still believe them to be holy. Because
photographs aren’t sworn to tell the truth.
Because some things that haunt you
are bound to the land you live in.
Because you are both the bee and the pollen.
Because each mountain range is a birth-
mark on the earth and you would not leave
your lover’s body so unturned.
Across the kitchen counter, my grandmother kneads
koláče dough. The walls are goldenrod, puckered
as the pastries. Warmth has made a womb of this room,
of the thumb-pressed pockets she
fills with poppy seeds. Grandma,
I ask, what’s love like?
She says, The love of a sister is a deep
stain, the way plums purple everything.
No, grandma. Not like that.
She says, A mother’s love is a dumpling,
how its body plumps to meet your cheeks.
No, gramma, no.
She says, A daughter’s love is sour
cream, cool yet prone to curdle.
She places small suns in each palm,
peach jam glazes lazily in their pits.
Cheese and cherries, chipped platters
on which the sweets are stacked.
No, grandma! Love! What is real love like?
Oh, that! Well, real love, she says,
is the sound a fork makes
as it scrapes
Will the fire still whistle and spit
around my offerings? Will the flames’
strange orange syntax mourn as it melts
the flesh that once fed it? At the edge
of this Czech village, visitors are welcome
to witness the staged burning of witches.
Tonight is the stomach of spring—
midpoint between the equinox and summer
solstice. Scarecrow witches are sacrificed,
fastened with sapling to the pyre.
Since their power weakens as the weather
warms, the night will be set alight in hopes the flush
will usher them out. I stand surrounded
by a crowd of floodlit faces, sparks
sharpening the angle of every chin, every grin
cast sinister in copper shadow. And I
among them, wishing winter away
with just as much passion but horrified
of the origins bonfire has in innocent bones.
We each throw our own kind of coal
into the young fire. Someone throws a name;
another, an ocean. Any memory that can be used
against us is purged. The ocean burns
green, like copper and zinc, and I want my bones
to burn, too. V noci každá kočka černá. Want to scream
that women have never been
afraid to lean into the heat.
Emily Paige Wilson is an MFA candidate and graduate teaching assistant at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Asymptote, Green Mountains Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, PANK, and The Raleigh Review, among others. In addition to Kert Green and Brauer fellowships, she has received the 2012 Emma Howell Memorial Poetry Prize, was first runner-up in the 2014 Indiana Review Poetry Prize, and was a semi-finalist in Tinderbox’s first annual poetry contest. She rules her life like a fine skylark and is working on her crow pose.