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. 

When Joy Comes

Don’t raise the curtains,
throw a party, invite the neighbors,
set off fireworks. No, spit twice
with furtive glances, left and right,
mutter, “Kina hora,”
your Yiddish grandmother’s
invocation against the evil eye.

Your DNA cringes
with the genetic imprint
of Cossacks setting fire
to your Russian ancestors’
wedding party,
grabbing the virgin bride,
yanking her dark rope of hair,
twisting her hooked nose.

The Devil jeers:
“Don’t be too happy!”
The Proverbs warn:
“Pride goeth before a fall.”
Your mother’s punishment:
take away whatever you love most.

You hoard your golden apples
until they wither in your dark cellar.
You drape a tent of rags
around the fire of your poetry
until it suffocates, burns out.
You hang your art inside a citadel,
raise the drawbridge, fill the moat.

And still, friends drift away,
jobs end, lovers betray.

Risk the ricochet of fate,
taunt the gods
with your raucous joy!

If we are to lose everything in this life,
and for sure we will
with our last breath,
then let us rejoice:
blast the trumpets,
dance and love.

Yes, let’s love
as if this is all there is,
this half-mad falling for
and falling into,
flying in the face of
“Oh no, you don’t”
and “I told you so.”

Yes, if we are
to lose it all,
then let’s first make sure
we have something,
no, everything
to lose.


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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