Open at Last

Visionary in all weathers, Louisville’s Emma Aprile finds a way to carry hope through life’s balancing act.


The Year of the Eclipse we pulled our kids out of school.
Outside our sight, the worst weapons were hammered out in unimpeded
light. Totality stripes were all the rage. We wore them under capes
dyed in shades as ombré’d as we imagined the daylight would be.

The Year of the Eclipse people took giant steps, like untethered spacemen,
into our worst histories. We turned cars back into weapons, like lighters,
like CFCs. Leaves scattered moon-shaped slivers on the ground.
We cleaned our telescopes, aimed them behind us. Held our breath.

The Year of the Eclipse we called every year the worst year.
We badgered our imaginary gods like impatient children, asking,
Will it get any darker? What are the odds? We forgot how to cry.
Our gods were not as thoughtful as we constructed them to be.

The Year of the Eclipse people forgot about science. We built
Ouija boards out of marble runs and online articles. Was any lever
long enough to move us into a new orbit? The worst eclipse
glasses were too fragile, pinholed by keys nestled in my bag.

The Year of the Eclipse doctors suggested leeches. We built the worst
wagons, started our slow march back to the plague years. Our sky got hotter.
We told stories about how to bend our history’s arc toward justice,
tried to recall how to face our fading sun, find our hope, carry it with us,

into this midday’s cold and blinding dark.


Let’s start here—build this half-assed
snowman who leans

sunwards. Crazy coalless kids
dress him with sticks,

scarves & candy wrappers, street-
salvage. Dog shit

melts out of him, clumped asphalt,
frozen mud, leaves,

crabgrass. Where’s that fluffy snow from

Not that long ago we poured
maple syrup

into empty margarine
tins, to eat with

snow—did we know better, all
that acid rain

& smog? This story’s nuts, like
the one where me

& my dad bike down our street,
no helmets on,

we’re a balancing act: me
on his shoulders,

me with my sticky arms out,
me, tall enough,

tagging oak leaves before they
drift into piles

to be raked & corralled in
some future fall

after this bike ride ends.


The hosta’s furled leaves unroll, completely now,
except for one imprisoned in a fragment of
a dogwood’s dead veins. Spring lumbers in,

storms, temperature swings, like our home’s
moody teenagers moving in circles, in and out

of the kitchen, passing through hallways
inside their own shadowy worlds, listening
to soundtracks we can’t hear. My own

ears once filled up with other people’s music,
and I strained to make out the words, divining

what new scriptures I might turn to, days when
every breath felt close, skin raw, and I could barely
understand the way a voice that howled like

Robert Plant’s could make my exposed wrists feel
like a Dylan Thomas poem I had not yet read,

the way the spring bulbs held their blooms tight,
and looking at them before they opened seemed
rude, indiscreet. Spring, again. The hosta waits

for the dead leaf that binds it to decay, for its own
hungry green tongue to spread out, open at last.

Author Profile

Emma Aprile’s poetry has appeared in online and print publications including Shenandoah, Antiphon, Nurture, and Belt Publishing’s 2020 Louisville Anthology, edited by Erin Keane. Emma holds an MFA from George Mason University, and works as a copyeditor of literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for Sarabande Books and other independent presses. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

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