Emily Pérez


Because I wanted to keep
appearances, because I was ashamed
of your loud avowals, flapping hands.
Because of agitate and irritate.
Because nothing could fill me.
I was tending towards more
emptiness, my guts a breath
away from retching up regrets.
The wretched man his wretched wife
their wretched ever after. I heard
you shouting in the alley. I heard
shooting in the alley and thought
of you. I heard your moaning mouth
howl for help and then you bit
my hand; you poisoned all
the garden. Because you ratcheted
the recklessness, the tension
hard to hold. Because you wrenched
my wrists while I hung on.




We killed the mockingbird
and killed so many more. Foolish
to believe that we were ever growing
out of our armored selves, sealed off
like walnuts, small brained and fearful.
We did not want to be vulnerable. We did
not want to stand alone, skin exposed
to the night, trembling against
whatever wind was rising.



Making and Unmaking

Once upon a time there was a little box,
a wooden vessel filled with tiny wants.

Once upon a time the box was buried,
the map and key tucked high upon a shelf.

And when her hands were free she cut
and colored, drew straight lines and crafted

a trim house. Then she turned a needle round.
She teased herself into a net.

She threw herself into the street to wait.
The one she caught she placed inside

the house. She carved the rooms and roof
to fit his moods. Over time she learned

to drown her thoughts, to put her book
aside when he walked in. Once,

she lay down flat, became a mirror,
a silvered glass in which he saw himself.

She learned to tidy, to arrange. Keep everything
in order. Once while tidying she came

across a map that she’d forgot,
a map that led her to a buried box.

And when she found the key and looked inside,
whatever had been buried there had died.


Emily Pérez is the author of House of Sugar, House of Stone (Center for Literary Publishing, 2016). She holds an MFA from the University of Houston where she served as a poetry editor for Gulf Coast and taught with Writers in the Schools. A CantoMundo fellow, she has received funding and recognition from Bread Loaf Writers’ Workshop, The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, the Artist Trust, and Jack Straw Writers. Her recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Bennington Review, and Poetry Quarterly. She is a high school teacher and dean in Denver, where she lives with her husband and sons.