My firstborn cups her hands over her mouth
to catch the blood, as if holding a secret.


Her lip, bitten through, swelling a betrayal.
I already knew the body’s disloyalty—
how it may defer healing, breathing, feed
the begging sacrifices of love to the priests,


never more godlike than when dying. I will
always wonder what our youngest daughter


felt as her body ascended. Like a single word,
murmured, that you wish you had never said.

Renee Emerson is a homeschooling mom of six, and the author of Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing, 2014), Threshing Floor (Jacar Press, 2016), and Church Ladies (Fernwood Press, forthcoming 2022). Her poetry has been published in Cumberland River Review, The Windhover, and Poetry South. She adjunct teaches online for Indiana Wesleyan University, and blogs about poetry, grief, and motherhood.