Two Poems by Emily Duffy


We woke violently that morning to find
there are systems in place
lattice structures that heave
gently with every mouth of wind

coiled within without
I tied a black ribbon around my neck
to feel something else

Forgetful forgetful I tried to run
I tried to kill the false woman
She choked me with black-gloved hands
or were they white-gloved hands
I’ve been having trouble with light and the absence of it

My hips aren’t wide enough for this pyre
Carpe pre dawn
Carpe dusk

We drove by pockets of ghost towns
Sharp syllables dissolving
Entonguing ragpicker and rag

After developing the A-bomb, Enrico Fermi hallucinated.
Upon hearing the blast of the test he drove
away from as road warped in front of him.

This city is like every city
Once a day egg yolk sun breaks
and bleeds over jagged skyline

Baby labyrinth, baby labyrinth
kiss my open sores and rain on me
Rain away
Rain away
these streets heave like a ship
seasick me


“It makes me cry, I want to talk about something I am not sure I can talk about, I want to talk about the inside from the inside, I do not want to leave it I am so happy in the silky damp dark of the labyrinth and there is no thread”
– Hélène Cixous, Book of Promethea


1. I am floral violence. A gash, an arch.

2. I have fever dreams—and waves of pain that could rip you in two. Imagine peeling the skin off a baseball.

3. This winter is just a long swatch of melting and cooling. Nothing about this invites hibernation. Spring won’t be sweet relief—just another punctuation mark.

On the fourth day it rains ink and rust. Hoop garden roots and tenement blocks.

5. Leave a light on. No. Turn the light off. Ripen under a half moon.

6. Every night I have fever dreams

7. Imperfect in my longing I’m—incomplete

8. I set budget goals. I plug numbers into an excel sheet and color code them

9. I order The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense from Amazon, just in case

10. My gentle hours crescendo

11. Promethea’s lips- violence and fire, fire.

12. Breathless over, under, over

13. I couldn’t walk with these chrysanthemum legs- they buckled and shouted beneath the hollow of my pelvis. No, you don’t understand I HAD to dance.

14. (sharp inhale)—(exasperated exhale) (sit on the floor, then, slowly get up)

15. Apart from physical violence—giving unsolicited life advice is the most
egregious thing you can do to a woman

16. “We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but today could be a really tough one. Society focuses on PMS, but women also experience a low day or two right after ovulation. The reason is that right after ovulation, feel-good Estrogen crashes abruptly. Some women say that this window can feel even more dramatic than PMS—going from a super Estrogen high to a major low within a matter of hours”

17. My secrets live in marrow in marrow

18. I build a nest for all my secrets—with palo santo and half dead aloe plants

19. My candle burns slowly, and only at one end. She flickers.

20. I contemplate, I read, I think unacceptable thoughts

21. When I close my eyes I float on gratitude—I dream of utopias

22. Every night I wait for you to orbit back

23. I’m not small enough, I’m not large enough—please, trace my lips with your thumbnail and tell me again the story of how we met

24. lakes of grief between each vertebra—they’re spilling!

25. antique wounds opening, cauterizing

26. Moth, lamp, gaslight

27. spun. I vibrate like a rogue tuning fork.

28. precipice of sink down. Precipice of begin again


Emily Duffy is Punch Drunk Press’s first featured writer this October. She is the space between snooze and the next alarm. A kaleidoscope of radical softness, vulnerability, feminine strength, and play feeds her poetics, pedagogy, and outreach work. As a second-year MFA student at the Jack Kerouac School, she consults in the Naropa Writing Center and teaches an undergraduate writing seminar. Her creative work has appeared in The Lantern, Aux./Vox., BEATS: A Naropan Periodical and Iron Horse Literary Review. She performs as Agent Sauvage with Boulder Burlesque and is the editor and publisher of Tooth n Nail: practical advice from and for the everywoman.

Photographs by Emily Duffy. Author photograph by Kid Neon Photography.


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