With the Thin Blue Line
by Renee Emerson
A mistrust of my body, and I begin to look
for omens. A bat flying in the early morning,
a black scribble in the sky.
Two rabbits on the lawn, watching.
The tomato plant ripening
in the husk of mid-November.
The day becomes green,
tornado weather, a stillness
like silence behind museum glass.
My husband says you’re not,
when he means the other thing.
The rooms are empty,
a coat without buttons.
In the hallways, my footsteps
like lonely cousins.
by Renee Emerson
A red stain beneath the dresser,
like the wrong shutter speed, tells
of mistakes that were made here before.
All our boxes emptied and pried apart,
tape stripped off, laid flat. Unpacked,
we pound nail holes in fresh paint.
Pictures of ourselves at occasions—
white church steeple, blue sky.
Carefully arranged in the hallway,
guest room, over our bed.
It makes all the difference
to see, at every turn,
a familiar face.
by Renee Emerson
My husband works a long day:
I grow restless. Skin wet with late summer,
Kentucky, oppressive Ohio River valley.
The renters before us who didn’t
mop, didn’t scour the black dog fur
from the baseboards, didn’t scrub
the cabinets dotted with capsized bugs,
took all the light bulbs
and batteries in the smoke detectors
when they left, each room
now lightless, combustible.
They dug a koi pond
by the back shed, a once elaborate
rock-lined oasis in the fields
of blue wildflowers the butterflies eat
in the morning, the cows tear at
in the evening.
A friend tells me the place I’m in reminds her
of where I grew up; it doesn’t me, though
there are similarities—no people, stretches
of what a city person would call “nothing.”
This is where we will have our first child.
Seven months pregnant, I move the stones,
break the strand white as pearls, slit
the plastic fill like a throat. The filmy
water sinks back into the earth, frogs scatter
as a people dissembled.
At night I think of the empty dip in the ground, drying
now, as we listen to the coyotes in the fields,
to the devastation of the straight line winds.
A steady voice, maddening.
Renee Emerson has her MFA from Boston University, and has
published three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Where
Nothing Can Grow (Batcat Press). Emerson’s work has recently
been published in Indiana Review and Southern Humanities
Review. She teaches poetry and composition at Shorter University.
On “With the Thin Blue Line,” “New Tenants,” and “Draining the
These three poems were written during three distinctly different
times in my life, and I tend to write autobiographically. I wrote
“New Tenants” after my husband and I moved for the fourth time
in three years; I’m always one to, as soon as possible, hang
pictures on the walls, wherever we live, because it does help,
really, to see a familiar face, even if it’s just a snapshot. “With
the Thin Blue Line” was written when my husband and I began
trying to conceive—my fears, uncertainties, all of the emotion that
goes into that—and “Draining the Koi Pond” was written when I
was very pregnant with that same child. We had moved (yet
again!) to a small farm house in the middle of a Kentucky farmer’s
pastureland. The previous tenants had possibly been drug-dealers
and left the house in exactly the state a drug dealer would leave a
house. So I found myself, ponderously pregnant, scrubbing
floorboards and tile for a good month. And, of course,
deconstruction of the koi-less koi pond had to happen then too.
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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 7, Number 2
Copyright © 2012
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material
published in the Apple
Valley Review are retained
by the individual authors
Draining the Koi Pond