SPOTLIGHT: Ghost House by Emily Butler

Fairy House

It is my job to count the fairies in the house. This is not stated, more, implied. There is a ladder leading out the window. I follow it and forget my job because you are handing me a pill bottle filled with sunflower seeds. I look different. You look the same. The pink flags on these lawns signify something political but I’m not sure what. I walk and the world creates itself around me. I cannot walk fast enough to get to the end of this simulation– piercing the boundary of what I thought to be the sky.

Sinedu’s Letter

Sigh after sigh I realize–
the flowers keep on dying.
Birds make no difference.

I’m laughing on thin air.
There is a sensation
like falling.
I know that soon
the earth will break me.

A blushing little thing
shrinking ever smaller.
Invisible in crowds.
Choking on river water.

The house was a sunflower. Now it bleeds.
I wait to hear from you.

Cento for Jenny and Jennifer

It’s become just like a chemical stress.
Someone shouts “you’re ugly.” Dogs bark at the sunset.
All these eighties movies houses drown
in purple light. The sky is a bluish gray.
I cry into my hands.
I cry into a pillow.
In my dreams, I see myself hitting a baseball
in a green field somewhere near a freeway.
I walk next to the freeway and down the hill.
Back at home I think I feel an earthquake
and we’d better hurry up. I avoid the mirror again
and then I look in the mirror for what feels like two minutes
but is closer to an hour, tracing the lines in my face
for something more beautiful than is there.
I remember all the women who have not made it.
I’ve barely been gone.
I think about not making it.
Am I asleep or awake? Where is the song? The beauty?
The movement? The playfulness? The life?
The crowds keep me coming back, cheering.
I’ve become just like a terrible mess,
commanding the wrong body
the wrong voice
the wrong name.
I’m not a failure, I swear–
I’ve got a lot over here without you,
but now I want it all for myself.

Scent Meditation

Find a comfortable, symmetrical position on this lawn chair.
Might I suggest resting the soles of your feet on the bottom rung
of the wooden chair in front of you. Yes, the one you found
on the street and painted baby blue but it’s still ugly and
chipped from the rain. Do not chide yourself for forgetting
your possessions in the rain: bike, fire pit, hammock.

Now, close your eyes. Someone else will have to read this to you.
There you go. Inhale deeply. Recall the time when your therapist
read you a body scan meditation. You felt so completely
watched. She told you to exhale through your mouth, so you did.
It was uncomfortable. Exhale however you damn well please.
Inhale through your nostrils. Notice any scents.

Earlier, doing the dishes, you got deja vu
while calculating how many more days
your boyfriend will be travelling.

The neighbor’s radio static sounds unnervingly similar
to those experimental bands you like. Broken Social Scene.
Múm. Oh, now you’ve done it. You’re only supposed to reference
myths or the Bible. You aren’t supposed to make
the dual “you” so obvious.

You aren’t subtle. But the smell of your cut lawn is. Inhale it.
Notice how each inhale smells a little different, almost imperceptibly,
but it’s there– like the differences in each and every moment
of your life. Each and every bite of your boyfriend’s
chocolate cake. Notice how you’ve never noticed this before.
Now, sniff your own armpit and remember you’re alive.


Tonight, I attempt to calm myself
around the predictable weight
of a nail polish bottle. Shade
black as pupils. Butyl acetate
stings my nostrils. I can’t stop myself
from thinking of chemicals
as unnatural. As if the world
were not made of carbon.
Toxic scents trigger pleasant memories:
Gas pumps, road trips.
Energy drinks, all-nighters.
Bleach, a swimming pool.
Can you believe there was ever a time
we didn’t live like this?
I could have mixed beeswax
with orchids, crushed berries against cheeks,
traversed by footfall and horsehoof,
no need for microchip or safety goggle.
Let us forget the word tomorrow.
Sometimes the only way forward
is to turn back.


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