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I was a room for eleven 

months. The books piled 

neatly, the dishes washed 

every evening. Then, 


you came back 

again. You pulled my chest

from your jaw in one beat. Chin 

tipped towards table corner, eyes 

trickster fire, saying: what if?


The next day waves crashed

my room. All the way up to my 

collar bone. I heard the ocean

swallow cars on Portland Avenue.


I walked fears into mud by the river, 

cicadas my witness. Our memories now

too close, almost drowning their chorus.

That night the rain chanted Leave 

the room, leave the room.       What if?

Emily Krumberger |  © 2022


I want to cut off my arm. Sometimes.

When the steps of Coltrane’s notes grab me, 

threading themselves under my skin.


They start soft: a child peering 

around the corner of an open door, 

then quickly padding away.


Slowly building, their crescendo 

a warm buzz on my skin.

Or when the fuschia splatter of clouds 


like magnetized forms on an etch-a-sketch 

hang above the Lake Street K Mart 

on humid summer nights.  


When metal clanging down city streets and 

pieces of children’s afternoons 

ricochet off house walls into kitchen windows.


How do you tell people that you ingest every 

snatch of song overheard, every glimpsed sway 

of skirt, every shade of the prism your eyes consume?


That you are a river of electric current? 

How do you name the color of sky 

ignited by fluorescent etchings 


of a downtown at the moment after 

a silent cascade of rain -- 

Is it inky? Is it mauve?


The petals of water cycle their own orbit 

in the streetlamp pool, barely possessing 

the weight to touch down on cement.


How do you name the meeting of lips 

to skin in the triangle between hip bone 

and abdomen? Or the cackle of saliva 


against tongue and inside of cheek - 

oral mucosa - in a kiss?

This precise naming of things -


baptizing moments 

in language - is this 

not prayer?

Emily Krumberger |  © 2020


How are you doing? Surviving. Two older men with six packs lean in. Yea, I’m in the same boat. One, a shaved head, grisly beard, Harley shirt, hunches over as he picks up his Milwaukee’s Best. In the check out line, a green mohawked kid speaks Spanish to two guys with work still on their jeans. A grandma tells her nephew the stories knotted in her back.

Now this chapel of indulgence and mosaiced liquid no longer vibrates with elder laughs nor commerces in shit talking. Brighter lights and new linoleum don’t favor gray heads nor lined faces the way softer tones did. A shiny new neighbor with heated underground parking and a necklace of balconies has arrived. The block grins with Uncle Sam teeth and tells visitors that the changes are worth what they hide.

Emily Krumberger |  © 2019


On that drive east 

down 36th street

the summer’s last sun 

glint arrowed a shard 

across the windshield.


The breaks: not quick 

enough. The squirrel’s 

dart: too direct, kissing 

the wheel with a

deliberation its heart 

couldn’t sustain. Still, 

the veins sent blood.


From this side of 

the steering wheel we 

shouted, burst doors 

open. The car: now a 

winged dinosaur stalling 

in the road while the 

equinox curled 


its spill around brick 

apartments to ask, 

is it time? 

Its flame: the blaze 

we didn’t know to 


prepare. Our arms 

found cardboard and 

gurnied the rodents’ 

shuddering frame onto 

alley grass. In unspoken 

rhythm we altar boyed 

and auntied. Pulled 


mother tongue from 

dirt. Whispered psalms

and threaded death 

rituals our hands learned 

as young bodies. When 

the cadence of truth 

was known by 


observation. In 

refracted light we


are all earth dust, 

spirit, and 


Emily Krumberger |  © 2022

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