Emma Lee

Emma Lee’s recent collection is “Ghosts in the Desert” (IDP, UK 2015). “The Significance of a Dress” is forthcoming from Arachne (UK). She co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea,” (Five Leaves, UK, 2015), reviews for The Blue Nib, High Window Journal, The Journal, London Grip, Sabotage Reviews and blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com. 

I’m here, wherever that is

It took two years to get here.

I couldn’t find it on a map.

It’s not London. It’s damp.

I was given thirty-five pounds,

and have to skip meals

when I pay for English lessons.

I’d sit and stare at walls

until I found the library.

There’s no time limit.

I hear foreign tongues

in the next room: neither

English nor my language.

I said “Hi” to someone

without averting my eyes today.

She said “How are you?”

I know to say “Fine,” now.

The grey lifted, momentarily.

I saw a map. I still don’t know

where here is, but I now know

it’s two letters from home.

Maligne River

Windows 10 asked if I liked this picture:

Maligne River, blue against the ubiquitous rocks

and pines with a backdrop of mountains in Alberta.

My fingers clicked yes before my brain registered.

Was it familiarity? I’d been there.

Was it the story of how it got its name?

I close my eyes: the first image is the water.

It forms a line separating mountains, allowing

grasses to grow between rocks, goats to graze

and sun to reach pines watered by the subterranean

seeping of the river that reinforces the boundary.

It would take more than a human lifetime to erode

the grey rock that fails to react to the drama

of weather and nature around it.

The river surface is calm, hiding undercurrents

fed by underground springs. A rider

named the river after his horse was spooked.

Easier to name something malevolent

than consider why. Easier to blame the horse

than think there’s something not quite natural

here. Under the grace of a swan, observers

don’t see the paddling feet, the push against

competing directions below the surface,

which reflects the sky back, the liquid

giving it a shine, a skim of glitter

to detract from the dark pool below.

This river is a map of my childhood.

The two-dimensional image offers a choice:

focus and understand the hidden third dimension

or look at the pretty gloss and move on.

The Stigma of being Incomplete

Engineers built the best version of a specific human being:

a robotic replica with heart, lungs and face to show

use of robotic limbs, neural implants, hampered only

by the inability to feel the objects they can manipulate.

The original subject found the pulley and harness to control a hook,

to replace his left hand which he’d been born without, chafed.

He rejected it in favour of a myoelectric prosthesis, an i-limb

which gives him twenty-four grip patterns controlled

by an iPhone app. He could only dream of things he can now do:

wheel a suitcase whilst talking on his phone or write left-handed.

He jerked in shock when he first met his replica.

It could behave like him, it virtually looked like him,

but skin warmed by electronics does not yet compensate

for the absence of blood. Lifelike, but not yet life.