Emma Stewart

Now What?

-Ekphrasis on Children Walking Across A Bridge of Chairs in a Flood



When I dream the life I have is made up of too many doorways

the ideal hallway contains no family,

no water

The reflections are blindspotted and the corners are clean and dry

When I dream the house is untouched by the flood but everyone outside

is having a good time and I want to swim with them

When I used to dream dark water was a nightmare 

but now there’s always a light to swim towards

and a boat nearby I refuse

because swimming means I don’t have to listen to anyone

not listening to me

Water becomes the only way to cut a path

without other people getting in the way

and the dark water always ends up hiding nothing

that will grab my leg or pull me under



Now we have errands to run

no matter how wet the furniture we still need to eat

Now the sun comes out so we can see what drowning does

to different objects

Now doggie paddle

The world is still a shape, but A to B is a path that demands

new movements

Now the roof is the floor

Now our neighbor is a boat captain who helps deliver Red Cross meals

Now school is how to bait a fish hook

Now the morning finds another missing pet on a far away chimney

The world catches a glimpse of us

and sends what they think we need then turns back to other things

Now we are short on toilets


The day I woke up to rain in Calexico the landscape turned

unrendered, a perfect gray blanket over already isolated lives

the block buildings a bad 3D design on the flat repetitive dirt

we lost the blue sky for less than 12 hours and stopped existing

I woke up to everyone in a dream, forgetting how to drive but knowing

we had to stand outside

And again, in the record heat of Salamanca, when the rain came

rushing through the town, a classmate and I stopped talking

with a mirrored expression we walked slowly into the street 

and absorbed as much as we could


So maybe flooding leads to new bridges

and finds some people 

who know how to make a normal day

out of waist-high water

And maybe the desert teaches us rituals in the litote of giftless dirt

with nothing to drink sometimes for years

Maybe we’re bodies like deserts, rain pulling us out from safety

to find rivers and erode new canyons, learning to route

water through us and out

What I learned about preparing catfish from watching YouTube videos all summer

// cleaver up under her gills/settle the thick blade behind her skull/hammer down into the spine with a small mallet/the large catfish has nostrils that look like eyes/eyes that look like bullet wounds unhealed/ all its life/you do not have/ to be careful getting/ down to her organs/you will not get through/ her heavy doors without/every intention of breaking/through/and intention will only get you/ halfway/this is a weakness you can remember/ from youth/when you thought physical strength/ was intention/when you were wrong/she is a woman/pull off her head/both hands tucked into the slit/ around her neck/tug back/and/forth until her head slips like a dress/off the truck bed/onto the concrete/already and still/trying to swim away/in her own wet/trailing her bitter yellow egg sack/pet the organs away from her blubber with the tip of your cleaver/her head cavity is now the word/gaping/before you knew the word gaping/ fins/stretched to chest open backfly/on either yellow side/a catfish is very sunny in death/ leave the head/ for the body/cleave off the first fin/which makes a sound/like two teacups fighting/ you will get nowhere with her body/ and still crack away/even with her skull gone/ the golden ring you wear is nothing/ compared to hers/ hammer through her spine for another steak/ her eggsack/running/the length of her body/peeks out after every/cut through another hole/her main artery blubbers/like a bursting red tongue/still/it leaks slowly/still you take/ another sunny piece of her/throw her/steak by steak/on the bed/of your truck//

Emma Stewart

Emma Stewart (he/they/she) is a trans, genderqueer poet who is currently bouncing around the continental US trying to get all their degrees before settling back down in Long Beach, CA. Currently she is working on a PhD at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. He wants to focus on the joy of trans life, queer love, and the mysteries of life like what it would be like to get an email from spinach.