3 Poems by Emily Burton-Uduwana

Too Far Gone

In times of war,

teenage boys carried coffins to graves

and as they walked they heard music

played by still younger boys

and after many coffins 

and many graves

they called that music

the dead march.

I read a book by that name:

The Dead March

and it told the story 

of Mexican boys

and American boys

and the bodies that maybe belonged

to either

or to neither

(they were too far gone to tell).

And I read

and I wondered

if the dead march is still music,

if it still rings in the chords 

and the notes

of pockmarked drummer boys.

But no, 

I think our dead march 

cries out now

in the infrequent dings

of GoFundMe campaigns,

notifying our mothers,

our fathers,

our families,

that no matter how many Karens

and Sharons and Cathys

sign their names to $20 donations

it will still not 

(will not ever)

be enough.

*The book referenced is Peter F. Guardino’s 2017 study, The Dead March.

Salt

We sat on a cliff with our feet 

dangling above the beach

and you told me I should try 

to enjoy it,

and you told me,

‘Everything is okay,’

(even as granules of sand

bit into my palms,

even as the cold wind slapped

salt across my face).

I did try, though:

I told myself that the sunrise was beautiful,

that the waves 

committing suicide against the rocks

sparkled

in just the right way,

(even though they carried plastic trash

to the shore,

even though it was far too early

to enjoy an orange sky).

But all I could think about 

was whether 

it would be dark enough

to get back to sleep

when your cheerful optimism 

finally relented.

Would You Pick Me if I Was a Guy?

She only ate bananas on pancakes,

refused tomatoes for their texture,

and when I told her she was picky

she rolled her eyes and reached

for a mustard dispenser

on our sticky booth table

and she squeezed it over

her plain turkey sandwich

with a ‘take that’ sort of look,

but then she didn’t touch her food

for the rest of our meal,

just picked at my fries

and pretended

she wasn’t hungry,

and I think that pretty much

proved my point.

And anyway,

how do you tell someone

that you don’t care if they’re picky

about their food,

you only care if they’re picky

about you.

About the contributor

Emily Burton-Uduwana is a poet and short fiction author based in Southern California. Her literary publications include work in Specter Literary Magazine and Straylight Literary Arts Magazine, along with upcoming pieces in Miracle Monocle and the Owen Wister Review. Uduwana is working towards her Ph.D. in history at the University of California, Riverside.

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