Emerson Lee


life and living and being alive


They say that before we were born,
when we were just souls without clothes,

we knew times would be hard to get through
so we asked for a sign,

some kind of life force to arrive
so we could remember that we’re alive.

And they say that if you stand outside
on a quiet night, the crickets sing about it,

that if you put your fingertips to an apple blossom’s kiss,
it’ll whisper it right up through your veins,

that if you eavesdrop on the birds’ songs,
you’ll remember without ever realizing you’d forgotten

that everything they’ve ever said or sang or sighed
was only ever about life and living and being alive.

And if that isn’t a divine sign of something,
I must be barking up the wrong tree,
but look, the branches are still blossoming over me.

this is the dance


You want things to be neat and tidy.


You want to tie everything into a small package:

  ideas, dreams, your soul, the universe.


You want to hold it in your hand,
lift it like a lantern, and illuminate the night.


This is not so easy.


You can only glimpse glimmers,
and they will be gone before
you can catch them.


Like fireflies in Mason jars,
they are not for catching.


You are not in control of this experience.
You are part of it, experiencing it.


A glimmer here: feel it?

A sparkle there: see it?


You can only hope that it will graze your skin
like a lover’s touch, like the softest kiss.


They are not for you to wrap up,
neat and tidy, into boxes.


They are not for you at all.


Just watch them like a fireworks show.

Sit by them like a babbling brook.

Kiss them like a lover who will be gone in the morning.


This is not sad.


This is the dance.


Feelings can eat you alive

and I’m missing limbs,

but if a tree falls in a forest

and no one is around,

does she make a sound?

The Sound looks like a puddle

and I’m jumping in.

It’s sink or swim,

but I’m missing limbs.


elephantine love story


I carry my heaving, swaying body,
wrapped in my young but wrinkled skin
with eyes that know so much.

You and I, we shared the waters,
we waded for days,
our great bodies leaning against each other.

Now we’ve traveled far, far journeys,
farther apart than we ever intended.

We’ve marched to places we never knew existed.
The only thing we share, now, is the moonlight,

our wrinkled skin, and these weathered eyes.

As I walk through the dust,
scorching sunlight on my mud-stained back,
I know: I will remember you.
I will always remember you.




My soul smells like gardenias, jasmine, lilac, rose—

it might be trying to tell me that it is blooming.


I used to be wild, rough, full of thorns, but

now I am soft and gentle with wrinkled petals

and even when they fall, I am not afraid:

I know that I am dying,

I know that I am ephemeral.


I am so much less afraid of being ephemeral

(like a hummingbird or a lightning bolt)

than impermanent, transitory, fleeting, passing

(like dying roses or a speeding train).


I could be momentary, maybe,

because I am a moment

and a moment

and a moment

and they are all soft and gentle with wrinkled petals.


I used to get tangled up in the sadness

of how flowers die

until I realized that the flowers in my glass jars wither

but the ones in my garden come alive

and alive and alive.


It is the roots that matter,

and it is the watering,

and it is the sun, and the dirt, and the bugs, and the air.


So when I feel afraid of fleeting and passing,

I cradle words like roots and nourish and grow.


I know that I am dying,

but I also know that I am living.

Heart with Wings

Emerson Lee is a poet, creative non-fiction writer, and mixed-media artist from Bellingham, WA.They've been published in Polychrome Ink and Labyrinth Literary and Fine Arts Magazine. You can find them online via Twitter at @not_ralph_waldo .