Two Poems by Emma Aprile

The Patron Saint of Rust

I. Servant of God

The pump handle’s iron curves

mark a callused palm with ridges

from seams left at the mold’s joints—

molten echo of how we used to drink.

For our mothers, rich heavy water

splashed, filled with metal. Spills

soaked up with floursack rags, bucket

crowned with pipe smoke drifting down

from an old man’s screened-in porch.

Well water tasted like peace, for a while.

II. Venerable

By the time the well dried up, the pump

looked like a broken man, & why bother

to drink from that? Unused iron flakes,

sheds its thin snowy edge. Mud may be

mapped out in oak roots, moss puddles,

an exposed pipe rising out of the ground.

Maybe this creates a childhood. Mine adds

a plastic swing, its swaying frame’s orange paint

oxidized to brown. Forsythia’s thin branches

broken into bloom up against creekstone.

III. Blessed

Does a memory, peeled away in layer

after layer, become an etymology?

Outside, when we brush by, corroded

pipes & concrete-sunken frames

stain clothes & skin. Iron dust drifts

like pollen to choke our lungs.

Leaves have squandered their last

chlorophyll—embittered reds, browns

dirtier than sunset. They turn, fall,

linger where they aren’t wanted,

scatter & cling in morning’s fog.

IV. Saint

Preserve these tree-lined lanes, these ivy-

choked yards, these farms where fathers

died alone, these rooms where we were poor.

Each childhood’s emblem enshrined,

sheltered as a fallen-away bathtub Virgin.

There are no statues of the patron saint of rust.

There are only photographs, water-stained,

or Polaroids—now separated into layers,

colored in chemical dissolve. Left in piles,

the old maple’s leaves crumble & rot,

cooling air around them stinking like fire.


Nature Poem with Porch Roof & Utility Pole

Hawk. Window. Screen. A boy’s quiet click

of his phone’s pretend shutter. Suction’s

breathy release, as a door prepares to ease away

from its weather-stripped jamb. The hawk

overlooks three yards, a young yellowwood,

the alley behind an upscale restaurant & patio

bar, closed & quiet on our Monday afternoon,

long after the garbage truck’s six a.m. reversal.

The hawk looks at us. Looks away. Door’s

hinges quiet as spring leaves drying in sun.

The hawk hears, aims for the alley, pauses

at the pole centered between alley & fences—

flies away home. One photo from below

the porch roof, a whispered before. Unpictured:

the hawk’s wingspan, its hidden nest (sugar maple?

cell tower?), our compost heap, its sealed decay,

our fear of roaches, rats. One screen, size of

a playing card. Framed grid slicing our claim

into edges & blur. Pixels, their superimposed

perspective. As if a boy & his dog could have

gotten so close. As if, by standing at the back

of our kitchen, we could reach out into nature,

touch all the most majestic parts. As if

we could use our bare hands to separate

the terrier from the squirrel. As if I didn’t

thank the hawk. As if our silent yard

wasn’t always filled with someone’s prey.

Branches as motionless as winter’s 

absence. As if the hawk wasn’t easing open 

its own slow & silent door.

Emma Aprile’s poetry has appeared in online and print publications including Shenandoah, Antiphon, Nurture, and The Louisville Anthology (Belt Publishing, 2020). 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.