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Chris Emslie

A poem is the weird urge to love / on the behalf of the buried.

from Maybe Train

I have too many feelings for this kind of
television. How do you rehearse natural
disasters? That seems counterintuitive to
me. When such mass of metal is derailed
loss of life is almost reassuring. No-one is
going to believe you stepping out of the
wreckage with your coral dress intact. It
takes the absence of providence to safe-
guard faith—if every wish you utter finds
light, the hugeness of night negates itself.


In the dream you are not dead,
you are tipped for the Oscar. In
life you are not dead either but
nor are you a filmmaker. I never
said my subconscious would be
consistent. In the dream I bend
my torso over the back of your
chair and pull my chin backward
over your shoulder. In life you’d
hate it but here I make the rules.


Later, we overturned the bed—
underneath there was a hole. I
didn’t know what was in the hole
but since you took that avalanche
rescue course I figured we could
risk it. Under the floor we found
innumerable hills of sand, a map,
the bleached ribcage of a ship. I
said Have you practiced for this?
but as usual you weren’t listening.


“A letter in your writing doesn’t mean
you’re not dead.” The survivors of birth-
days, sedated in upholstered rows. This
un-scene is being trafficked across glass
and if we put up blinkers it’s almost like
staying in one place. I’d ride the rails for
ever but there’s no space for indecision
on a gangway. Rattling carriage of ghosts,
noses to the window for a glimpse of sea.
The worst part of moving is not stopping.


A poem is the weird urge to love
on the behalf of the buried. Why
else was the chisel invented? Yes
once again I am being distracted
by my own dumb questions. If I
say this is a spectrum, you’ll tell
me it’s a lie. I want no inscription
on my headstone—in death, as in
life, I’ll come up with the perfect
thing to write too late to write it.

Chris Emslie is assistant editor at ILK. His poems have appeared / are forthcoming in Sixth Finch, Whiskey Island and The Good Men Project, among others. He is probably waiting for a train.