The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Open the Fist by Elya Braden


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Open the Fist by Elya Braden, released by Finishing Line Press in 2020. 

Woke

Like the gong of a bell in a Buddhist temple,
your mother’s slap will wake you
out of the stumbling stupor
of your ten-year-old life,
wake you up to the now
of swallowed tears and weak ankles,
a ruby handprint rising
from the dough of your face
like a starfish reddening on the sand
under the sun’s sightless stare,
your first glimpse of the Seawitch
skulking in the kelp-beds of the ocean-sharded eyes
of the dark-haired beauty you once called Mommy.

Later, you can scatter your mother’s ashes
beyond the rim of tomorrow,
but her crusted waters will flow in you forever,
in the curve of your chin,
the way your smile lists to the right,
the deliberate loop of your cursive “g,”
and the memory of her once, long-ago slap
still ringing, ringing in your ears.


Elya Braden is the author of Open The Fist, a chapbook released in 2020, and The Sight of Invisible Longing, a chapbook to be published in 2023, both by Finishing Line Press. She is a writer and mixed-media artist living in Ventura County, CA, and is Assistant Editor of Gyroscope Review. Her work has been published in Calyx, Prometheus Dreaming, Rattle Poets Respond, Sheila-Na-Gig Online, The Coachella Review and elsewhere. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and have received several Best of the Net nominations.

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