Today Is; My Friend Emerson

C.N.P Poetry 

  • Cathexis Northwest Press

Today Is; My Friend Emerson

By: Tomasz W. Wiszniewski


Today Is


the intoxication of shame, deep forest

impaling my sternum, my pus’s hydraulics

practising owl-eyed compass // welcome

injury, hello sleepwalk, au revoir saws of

betterment // the clouds are heavy the rains

are falling, today is the come-up of all

our faintest bonny doomheads harvesting

cranes & by faithless moon the mistook

who stalk the night scrawling mutations

on glass // caw of mechanical jays too early

to calibrate the bruising earth // refusal

to floodlight battlements we’d rather erase

from history, as we focus on the ocean

bed & brace felts to watch the acerbic

sunrise // the day I feel like a French frog

a fog about my house // day I finally stop

stopping & infiltrate the restricted of me





My Friend Emerson

                 connecting flight to Leipzig, after midnight, age 19

Scouring the earth for the oldest copy of Mein Kampf

so that she could watch it burn. See the flames roll back

and massage the cheated timber, despite all the pressures

of the tide. Wide grins in rain showers. My friend.

So that she could embody the sensation of kismet

and pass it on. Some called her insane.

            Emerson was simply a person

who had outworn her flesh, her name, her shield

of untrimmed hair. She took two slugs to the chest.

She let priests in Guwahati take her temperature, and in her last year

she coughed up an orchid—for each countryside

            sparrow swaddled in grease.

One moment she was a ringing lung, the next

she was a blanket of snow. It was Emerson’s

melanoma diagnosis that finally prompted us to enshrine

the Andes. She would call the mountain range mother’s holy

fallen knuckles. She considered herself a Gnostic, fumed

when people mistook her for agnostic. The paths of science

and magic were born twins, I told her, and she responded

with a trenchant aye aye captain. I told her Hitler was heavy

into Gnosticism too. I had no idea whether this was true or not,

it was just my way of ribbing a friend.

When she felt ridiculed, she became a radio-silent ascetic

flying her scars through the eye of Elsie.

That was my friend, and I loved her. She was shot

over an argument about a book. Some called her insane,

but nobody acknowledged the argument, or even the book,

or the protracted internment, the sharp stippling of cuticles.

I can still see the crescent abrasion. I can still see the look

on Emerson’s face, in her second to last year, when I

surprised her with tickets to the South America she had heard

all about from her adoptive parents at their herringbone

bungalow. I can still see the fire beneath the thinning

million midnights, taking with it all presence of cold.




Tomasz W. Wiszniewski's first chapbook of poetry, Death Is A White Balloon, will be released in fall 2019. He is the son of a family of migrants, and is an avid admirer of cemeteries, thunder, more thunder. You can find him online @tomxwinters and tomaszwiszniewski.com

"Today Is:

I have found that it’s easier to weigh others’ demons than to confront your own. Personally, my struggle with anxiety disorders and bouts of depression (and a hardened knack for self-deprecation) has only ever been quelled when I have met my problems at their source, sequestered in “the restricted of me,” thereby learning how to heal. For sometimes it is harder to discern forward than to actually move forward. On a whim one afternoon I started expressing my fears in a kind of verbal body-horror will-out, laying bare my health—often unfathomably far from ideal and simultaneously rife with loud dreams. I barely paused, ascribing connotations of euphoria to generally undesirable emotions. It was cathartic mytho-exegesis of inner turmoil. It started with an image: an aerial view of a drab pine forest, myself surrendering from up high, falling face down onto the treetops. Today is...

My Friend Emerson:

This poem is impelled into an uncertain thread by disparate elements: among them, the notion that love can be channeled into actionable anarchy; arboreal life and medicine-healing traditions native to the Amazon rainforest, which I’ve read hundreds of fascinating pages on, as well the bleak realities of logging in its drainage basin and the 2019 wildfires threatening the forest’s considerable biodiversity; a young German orphan raised by Ecuadorians living in California, which calls to mind the ardor and cultural richness I was lucky enough to be surrounded by during my formative years and beyond. I’m unable to summarize or simplify the poem, but I will say the ultimate inspiration is a girl I once knew—a girl who had about her an irreverent sort of energy, instigating bike chases around our little block, spontaneously laying down her anti-laws. I remember one time she was accidentally struck by a rake or other sharp object, and, despite her facial lacerations, recovered quicker than anyone I knew. I should dedicate this poem to her, the nonphysical realm she inhabited."

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