Emily Hyland

He comes out of the other room
wet-faced like a red road,
stands with his back
to the argent stainless
steel of the fridge, which
hums in accord with its cooling,
dust against the side grates
I can never seem to clean,
hand on hand behind his lumbar
flat to the metal, he gently
pushes off and bounces back—
eyes not looking at me—takes in
the stimulation of our home,
five-bulbed fixture above,
hand-painted earthenware
bowl full of fruit, dust ball like a hay bale
rolling across scratched wood. He
squeezes his eyelids shut
as if to force more tears.
There is nothing within me that
wants to cry. All I want is to mourn
but I cannot uncover a way in—
pastel domiciles painted on walls,
wooden-framed scenes
of ages past and resplendent—
my whole life, a well of water—
quiet ground now, save for
pepper seeds springing in old soil,
potted in the window. He
steps to the sink, starts to
scour with a greasy sponge. I
see the landscape of his back, rolled
forward into the task,
shoulder blades sliding
away from center, round and round,
he moves in soft spirals so as
not to make progress, wipes the
detritus in the ceramic basin
layering uncongealing fats like
tire tracks that flush across this
gross terrain. I have
made a mark on his life—
to what end we go from here, I
will always have been the one
who made that call, the one who
counted bottles on the rack, took
mental notes of bourbon levels in the flask—
like a keeper of tides, the one
who scored the children’s heights
into the doorframe edge each year.


Emily Hyland’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Apple Valley Review, Belletrist Magazine, Sixfold, Palette Poetry, The Virginia Normal, and Stretching Panties. A restauranteur and English professor from New York City, she received her MFA in poetry and her MA in English education from Brooklyn College. Her cookbook, Emily: The Cookbook, was published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, in 2018. She is a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and studies writing with Mirabai Starr at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Emily is the cofounder of the national restaurant groups Pizza Loves Emily and Emmy Squared Pizza.