Emily Pickering

Saturday, a full blush

bleeding on our shoulders,

koi searching by the edges

of our fishing boat. Bulrush,

muskgrass. The clouds stumble

over us drunkenly, laughter

unzipping from our chests.

I named our fishhook after

a kickback from a pistol,

crumpling the air. The boat’s

hull, hollowed by the wind, cuts

like the cleave of a blade

through the glassy water.

Autumn scorches the greening

grass, the sky barely bearable.

I pluck eyelashes from cat-tails,

watching milkweeds weave around

the boundaries of our paddles

to touch each other once more.

What I want is for there to be nothing

left in the world to kill, but yet, here it is,

a trout tangled in the net’s gaping

mouth, angled to swallow the hook,

mouthfuls of waterweed in its maw,

tilting into the trajectory of the boat’s

predictable movements, soothing

the flopping fish. Oars rising with fault,

like a bullet in retrograde. Each side rocking

imperfectly, as if to move us farther apart.

When I pull the line, the hook gleams

and breaks through the water.


Emily Pickering

Wayward kids pushing fingers through fences,

chlorine-covered splinters stuck under shivering skin.

Two girls, all scabs and band-aids and loose teeth.


We went hunting for the worst ghosts, clutching steak

knives. Her hands brush across my sunburnt cheeks;

above, splintered shadows of oak trees bend into each other,


boundaryless. Not even the indigo bruise of a blossoming

thunderstorm would disturb us. We prayed we’d never

get gray hair or knife-shaped mouths with cold, metal jaws.


We never did see those ghosts, gliding through aquamarine

or growing familiar with the day-old fly corpse rooted

to the windowsill. Sunflowers turn away from their own shadows;


maybe we were the vicious ones. Maybe we were the haunting,

with cavernous mouths and rot-black lungs. Gasping for breath,

choking under all the weight of ceaseless summer heat.

EMILY PICKERING is a writer based in Michigan. Her work appears in Rattle, Eunoia Review, and elsewhere, and has been recognized by the National YoungArts Foundation and the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers.