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Two Poems by Emily Bannon


I wish you would call me a bitch

and take me over your knee

but I’m too shy to ask.

I bring my dad up in conversation

a little too often.

When you pulled out a crackpipe

I warned you I was impressionable.

You laughed at me

and the gaps in your teeth

lit up my heart

like a Viennese cathedral.

You say your wife left you, Daniel,

but your wife didn’t leave you.

Your ex-wife left you.

That was years ago.

I am your wife now

and I am right here.



On Sunday, you read me poems from your phone.

I am a poor strategist.

I prefer to collapse in the face of things.

I am amenable to suicide.

When prayer visits me,

I pray Elizabeth’s morbid archipelagos

exist only in our imaginations.

You see? I am willing to believe in God.

For you, I am willing to suffer

any number of indignities.

It was in the March of the winter

our dirty clothes were all in storage.

I turned around and there she was.

That’s what I’ll tell them,


when they ask me how I met my wife.

I turned around and there she was:

Jennifer crying on the street.

Or, it was more like we collided as I was walking

out of a bodega on 7th.

(On 7th what?

Street? Avenue?

In Brooklyn? Queens?


My Manhattan pied-à-terre

is the implicit center

of the cosmopolitan universe.

To add insult to injury,

I say bodega now.)

I squint and try to imagine my life

if, instead of making contact,

I’d have walked right through her

and kept walking,

never looking back.

I am a tireless revisionist.

Of history, of sentences.

That’s why I’m awake writing.


When she is drunk, she makes me very tired.

I barely understand her English.

We switch to Spanish

and I barely understand her Spanish either.

She teaches me over and over

that I have no native tongue.

Even when she’s sober,

her phone is always dead.

When she’s drunk she’s always crying

in the street or in my bed.

Mechi texted me a long voice memo

advising me to blame my parents

but I am too tired to remind her

that I have no blame to go around.

I have only my idiot money

and two blind eyes

and a burning wish

to lie down somewhere quiet.

You read me poems aloud

from your phone

while I thumb through my inbox,

marking emails from my mother

as spam.

I love you,

but I can’t field your stupid questions.

Lately it has been harder to write.

By lately I mean the past 9 years.

I am constantly distracted

by neon signs, reflective surfaces,

pockets of precipitation

illuminated by streetlamps,

the unfathomable geometry of every tree

I pass. You’d think I’d be used to it by now.

I think of my Chinese friend

who is a genius.

The awe I feel walking down the sidewalk with him

on a winter night,

embarrassed that someone so brilliant

would be charitable enough

to accept my dinner invitation.

He points to icicles

dripping from a street sign,

likening them to a fish skeleton

from our bygone meal.

I nod, entranced.

He follows with some remark,

maddening in its nonchalance,

about the depth of the sky.

Witless, I quiver.

I am content to.

This is my lot.

How many times

after a night of brutal self-inquisition

have I started my whole life over

only to discover, the next day,

that I was still wrong?


pointlessly nude,

squishing your nose and nipples

against my snowed-in window.


years ago on the roof,

streaking light-trails through the dark

with our arms.

I love you.

Could I ever love you?

This is neither a poem

nor an artifact.

No artifact I could produce

could prove that you were here.


Emily Bannon

Emily Bannon is a voice actor who grew up in many places, including Altadena. She wakes each morning without a question even though the whole world is burning.

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