PoetryIssue 19 | December 2013

Three poems by Emma Aprile

Flying Backwards: A Shot-By-Shot Guide

Montage of molded plastic shelves—what we could afford—
white as milk, that she would barely look at & not condescend
to touch. Kitchen table, cigarette smoke, Roger Daltrey’s voice
funneled through a transistor’s rattle as the dial vibrates
between static & tune. Ms. Pac-Man & a pack of menthol Kools,
a navy-blue polo shirt, a punch-button radio in a 1979 Pontiac.
My secret wish from the year I turned thirteen (too old
for unicorns, but she kept my secret) & she was not yet moving out.
When her first book lived half in her typewriter, carbon-copied, & half in manila envelopes
piled in our hall, waiting to be mailed. Her closet full of aqua,
pink, & cashmere black. A writer’s overstuffed ashtrays, stamps & envelopes.
Her separate line, & the night she told a salesman calling the house
for a second time, “I’m bald, too”—too long ago to foreshadow anything.
Her crack was a joke, like when she & my mother named each other
Felice out at a bar, trading imaginary phone numbers for drinks or a cigarette,
or a story that would garner a good laugh. If I had a sister, I’d want that, too.
Her breasts, her lungs, everything worked then, because they were young,
& I was younger, & we sang along to Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty, & Prince’s
1999 was just another party, as dusky as every summer night that year,
with stars like lit cigarettes shining out from the deck chairs where they sat,
having survived another bout of twilight & its slow descent into darker
honeysuckle-scented haze, & the mail waited to go out again the next day
while I lingered in the backyard below the deck’s low rail, hiding
from lightning bugs & our backyard’s drunken, dazzled moths.
I listened to a hum of voices I believed I’d always imagined
I’d grow up into. These nights, cigarettes, the concatenation of dawns
& noons & other, harder dusks between where the earth spun then & now
elongate, & contract. That summer, as we sprawled, escaping from humidity
into the cinema’s air-conditioned sanctuary, we imagined ourselves
suspended in Superman’s whirl of flight. His dizzied speed holds nothing
on the speed at which time has since begun to pass.
My stretched-out memory’s Doppler shift obscures the old, falling sun
though I try to bring it to mind. Any color it bore fades
behind our ragged & looming cherry trees, browning in their death throes.
Twenty years & two blocks away, I can’t recall
if she drank bourbon then or if that came later, in Indiana or Oxford,
or maybe not until closer to the end. Even if I had these days again
—hardwired handset against my ear, words & gestures clichéd
as a dying heroine’s final, spinning aerial shot—it’s too late to change
into my own red cape, to leap into the air. Too late to take off,
to fly to her—to say goodbye—to follow that blockbuster’s
technicolored instruction. No matter how fast I force my pulse to race,
it’s too late for me to get there, even flying backwards around the world.

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About the author

Emma travels whenever she can find a good excuse. She has tagged along on trips to Great Britain and Hawaii, and she admires a good beach jaunt as much as a week in a big city. Her work can be found close to home in The Louisville Review and anthologized in The Beach Book.

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok