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Tonight, I wish I knew who to blame, the crooked nuthatch responsible for the eggs I can see strewn even through sky from over hillside. Shattered before their time, now spilled sunny-side up, with innards beaten and assailed to the open air. Where, like a pact, each curbs their own messy shine before meeting eye to stormy eye.

I’m unaccustomed to it all. This unspoken honor system (or was it embarrassment all along?). I’ve never seen a people so wary to count their chickens before they hatch.

In the daytime, I still don’t know where I am, but am flooded by the fact that I have to see it. Where honesty with heft enough to knock the wind from any stray body is convection (sorry, convention), stowed near the bullets in every back pocket.

But what a good thing it is, to have a friend at the other end: muted in her gleaming, but gleaming just enough.

At least these lights are good for something.
Dedicated to the mornings that are truly unforeseen—where harbingers are kind, your solace is your bother, and there's your own ******* drool on the car seat.
Emma Ottinger Apr 28
In childhood, I watched my mother hang a rope
And build with fresh, new, maternal hands
A swing for my sister and I to feel alive
From the tree where I tried to hang one again In Adolescence

In Adolescence, down came the “Emma tree,"
Planted the day I was born,
Its roots died before its time, diseased,
The sibling I looked up to
Retired to the vice that jailed my father,
A quarter as old as he was when he began to look his age,
If only to feel alive again,
Seeking dopamine that their family could never provide.
And my mother took up gardening,
Enjoying most the killing of the weeds.
I used to equate stars to dreams.
But they look too much like the spots on her hands, Today.

Today, a cherry tree blooms, ornamental before our home,
Ornamental as my father, who speaks truth
Only on his painkillers,
And says that he’s anguished in this life,
True as mother Nature’s calls, flagrant for the insemination of Spring.

But I fear she won’t live well enough to see the baby thrive.

So Tonight, I mourn a tree.
Dedicated to Ive Ben Noble and beautiful, smart Henkensiefken. Deemed dumb by a world that wanted something to blame.
---
4/19/19
Pt. 1/2, from a night of perverse sorrow.
Emma Ottinger Jan 23
With hesitation do I dedicate to the half-empty,
but there's a vision of a girl I can't quite shake:
up to her Achilles tendons in rambunctious folds
of rank, grabby, carnivorous sea.
Disgruntled and shivering, but there all the way.

She’s the rare bird convinced of common feathers,
not so much **** duckling as self-deprecating swan,
never so bold as to lock eyes with the water
for fear of seeing herself in clearest view,
and never seeing for sure that she’s a heart of beauty.

Not that she cares, anyways.

She's got the sappiest music taste—
though I’m not supposed to know that, either—
characterized by aplenty
of heartfelt bangers we loved in youth and pretended to be over.

She's no Mr. Brightside.
But ****, when she cleans up...

The only silver lining she believes in is her sharp-edged contour,
cutting as the retort she’s got ******* on the pulse of.
She just doesn’t need to shout to prove it.

I've the off-and-on friend who resents without saying,
no words to spare when she's busy as of late struggling to breathe.
The silence I took for elegance is suffocation,
but at least black lung is still the vogue, I’ve heard?

And through the struggle comes a wicked perfection:
the ability to lay waste with a whisper,
and revere only in the rawest quiet.

Her humor, sometimes for the offensive,
is the most potent sense of feeling
that doesn’t take looking at her own self.
She as herself could light up a room.
If only it weren’t so much easier to fall short.

Because never would she outwardly want to be on someone’s mind,
(little does she know she jumps to the forefront of mine)
yet in that same reluctant, teeth-grinding urge she denies herself
in the desire to find her good lighting,
I have in the desire to let her know she is beloved.

But to tell someone they’re poetry to you is a pin in the grenade
that these budding wisdom teeth just can’t grasp.

She’s there now in the sea I still liken to her eyes.
Windows to the soul akin to a place she hates,
just as capable of resentment.

All I know is I’ll be torn asunder if she loses herself
beneath the brine of a bottle or the message of faux-hope within it.
In a churning silence of the drink,
there’s no honest sentiment with which to compare.
Lost at sea, with no quality control,
fool’s gold is such a fine, agonizing release.

Yet on she heads, carving mountains in her path, for a swill.

Still, every time I see her again,
I know I’ll never help loving her some,
while I pretend there's comfort in the fact
that most of us had to sink before learning to swim.
Dedicated to Mere. All of her.

Symptoms may include:
Anxiety, restlessness, or a sense of apprehension.
Blue-tinged lips
Rapid, irregular heartbeat
Cold, clammy skin
A feeling of suffocating or drowning that worsens when lying down
Difficulty walking uphill, which progresses to difficulty walking on flat surfaces
Emma Ottinger Jun 2018
She says she doesn’t have the strength within herself to write poetry.
Yes, her. The one who so often nourished me with song
til my soul began to learn how to hunt for itself,
whose word carried weight in leading me to pick my own instrument,
albeit one of a different tone,
as the key in keyboard became prominent for the first time
and the sound of purposeful fingers upon it could be considered,
only in the right light,
synonymous to the plucking of strings, just as rooted in emotion.

Yet she's the first to say that she herself can't do it.

Thing is, I suppose we’re politely at odds on the matter.
She favors poetry that’s sharper, with a cleaner cut,
that’s message is immediate and jarring
as a conduit running from soul through skin,
or a loose-lipped diary finally freed from lock and key.
And when she declared it, I started to consider what my poems seem to me:
Blackberry bushes (but kinder, I hope)
that snag and immerse just long enough
to make me feel I’ve had an effect.
I’ve used writing to expel my most gnarled feelings
to any passerby who’s maybe felt the same.
Like crying in a mirror:
alarming, but oddly refreshing,
and an indefinite reminder that our aches are never only our own.

Still, I'm not sure why it blows my mind
to hear that even the most glamorous hearts,
who wear confidence as a summer breeze that's always in their favor
and who inspire, from beau gestures to sleight of hand,
are included in those who find themselves pacing back, back and forth,
begging curbside at the dime store
for a scrap of the same feed that convinces a heart to pump ink.

But she says that any art that's enjoyed is worth it.
So while she seeks out words that bare the bones,
I’ll stay and make a meal of the marrow,
hollowing them so that the poetry may have a rightful place
to reverberate as hymns in a universal monastery.

But hell, like I’m any old soul.
I dress nicer than I otherwise would,
turn to the mother who told me I don’t meet her lowest standards,
and ask for a critique.
All for the moment when she greets me at the door with a legendary G#.

...Now please, could you spare a dime?
Dedicated to Elise, who, when faced with my tangled mouthful of flattery, somehow saw through to the part of me that’s actually worth a ****.
  Jun 2018 Emma Ottinger
Nat Lipstadt
For Emma Ottinger “I put out (my stories) just because”

“just because”
that’s the best excuse you got girl?

cause be-ing
just
is a **** good one

way back in March
wrote a declaration^ to all those just
beginning with an iota of courage and
a good story telling
way of seeing and the
secret sauce-way
to spin my imagination in
my eye sockets
with their well words,
for I am a drinker of
the beaujolais firsts of the new grapes
of young poets

words welling springing from between
the oohs and ahs and the damns -
I wish I had wrote that...

so here’s a hero push - so many kinds of bread to
fill our baskets, please girl may I have some more?
so here’s to you - and the Great Plains that birthed you,
and the breadbasket of four poem/stories you poured out
that were so far from plain, how could you know of seas and sea foam and cobalt and mahogany human body parts?

and the speech patterns of waves that took me decades to learn?

use those “Jacob’s ladders between your fingers,”
“whistle me like a stray dog following,”
for that’s what “the kingpin of my flighty wits”
requires, for this old scribbler is now:

“firmly rooted for a girl who's bold enough
to crack the whip over her head if
ever went to war with myself.
A confidant that won't run,
won't offer half truth when
the whole of it
is all that actually matters.”

so write with that window light on and
wheat fields that can be reenvisioned as the gray-blue sea
from which I crawled out of croaking...
to read you rightly

6/25/18
10:25PM
Emma Ottinger Jun 2018
Fallow brown, like he's poured his whole soul out through the gold sieve and lies in wait to be replenished.

2. The color of the ocean. Blue, I guess, but that’s not even the half of it. All the ruggedness of the waves—forming up, breaking, and forming again like life is only the motions. Her eyes are blue, but you could hardly tell.

3. A hand-painted bowl of fresh chocolate frosting from which the most immature hands soonest get a mouthful.

4. Beautiful. Like, drop dead gorgeous. I’d dig my own grave and stick to rolling in it if she ever looked at me some type of way. Their color? I don’t know. But most of all, I dare to wonder about the bludgeoned scar between them.

5. Sturdy cobalt. Far more indicative of her steady heart than gold could ever hope to be. Still susceptible to tear, but not so easily warped by heat or stress.

6. Simply brown. No, red? It’s always been hard to tell through the fog. Truthful like the rawest earth, I’ll call her mahogany.

7. Faded blue spray paint over a slate gray wall. Forcibly muted after her years of blasting music, but there’s still that rogue twinkle to them that I pray slips through the cracks.

8. Coffee, with all the vim and vigor to make you click your heels and fall in love.

9. Unripe lime seen lazing in the shade. Not fit for a margarita just yet, but straining at the bit nonetheless.

10. Hazel, although I still don’t know what the **** that actually is. Whatever. It looks nice on her resume.

11. Green. Or were they blue? The memories of her were too wonderful, too important, that I had to let the littlest details fade away first.

12. The crystallized seafoam that made me realize I deserved to feel alive, too.
Dedicated to any pair of eyes that's ever struggled to raise itself from the sights they've grown used to.
Emma Ottinger Jun 2018
To the girl who empowers me,
With a laugh, a glance, an honest word,
an unprompted touch of my shoulder,
to do the things I otherwise wouldn’t bother to:

Never have I been so brave as to hold a ball python for my own fun til she spoke of a snake who’s half her height
like an old friend.
That is not a metaphor.
Or to do that one pull-up more
and maybe one after it,
if there’s even a chance it’d bring me a step closer
to being the person I know I want to be.
And I’m definitely not yet a person who’s built for pullups,
but with her looking my way, doubt seems like a foreign word.

She told me she wished
that she could someday be the subject of my writing,
yet it seems every time I try to prove
that love is action,
passion eclipses intellect,
my paper folds itself into an airplane and flies by its own accord,
and I’ll be ****** if,
of all the things I can’t control,
my own words will be one of them.

I know I severed us for a while,
tugged too ******* the Jacob’s ladder between her fingers,
wanting more in the moment than she had to spare,
til her eventual reply was noble truth:
that her hands wouldn't be vacant for holding
while she had so much to set them to work on.

Her hands, her beautiful hands, were booked,
sometimes literally,
with her thousand different interests and commitments,
and all I could do was lay in bed at night,
sometimes tossing and turning at the thought of the time
where she took me in her arms on a whim,
and I was unable to fall asleep
for fear that, if she permeated the film of my dreams,
she'd be more nightmare than not.
Yet with time, she spoke to me by her own inclination.
Whistled to me like the stray dog I'd made of myself
and lay out a spot to sit next to her.

I never realized until now how much I respect her
for never playing nice with the boy who,
assuming we’re friends enough,
calls me a useless lesbian.
I guess that pound of a joke had some ounce of truth to it,
for all the times where what she and I had
felt like one great web of miscommunications,
and subconsciously I see her as the spider
or she sees me
or sometimes it’s us both this whole time.
But if there's any certainty in it all, it's this:
She'd been in at least the back of my mind
for as long as I'd known her,
asserted herself right away
as the kingpin of my flighty wits.
And I still dream of writing something that makes her heart beat,
even halfway to on par with all the stories that race
through her head,
in her wild blood.
I wanted to be her latest passion for even a moment.
Because the honest to god gleam in her eyes
when she tells me what’s really on her mind
made me so selfish as to want to be that thing,
for however long
or not-long
it could last.

Yet I've sometimes seen that fervor in her eyes waver,
like they're trying to promise something better.
Little does she know
she's already the best thing for me
just by being herself.

And I understand that she doesn’t love me
not in the way I once wanted,
but having her for however long in my life,
before she’s off like a free willed honeybee
with so much better to do,
that is enough and so much more.

Because despite how I’ve tried to deny the facts of the matter,
I’m firmly rooted for a girl who's bold enough
to crack the whip over my head if I ever went to war with myself.
A confidant that won't run,
won't offer half truth when the whole of it
is all that actually matters.

This was that paper airplane
comprised of eight months of the cheapest blood, sweat, and tears
from the first moment she set up camp
in the farthest reaches of my heart,
to where I was finally past the point of dreaming
of any future
where she may not be as happy with me as I am with her.

For better or for worse,
I've straightened my spine and let the honest truth sail
knowing full well that she doesn’t owe me a thing.
I'm still not sure if I was coming clean
or stating what’d always been obvious,
when I wished for her peace
among these watercolor depictions,
for her to find the rest she so craved and deserves,
and to wake, inspired anew, in a cycle that suited her,
whether I was a part of that cycle or not.

To the girl who helped me find the gall,
and who's going, going,
gone on to better things:
Gabriel García Márquez says I love you with all my being,
so maybe that’s why I'm finally letting you go.
To the girl who inspired me with her own reverence, of stories and fiction, characters and other worlds, and all the things that align just a little bit better than any of the aspects of our own lives ever seem to... and who still considered my awkward *** a friend after I deaddropped a love confession poem to her like some bootleg romantic. It's been a year, Al.
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