Death Without a Body

I want to know what kind of
I could be
if I were in
a happy marriage
Where a raised voice
would never be followed by a raised fist
& apps to track cellphones
would truly be
for safety
& not
So he would never appear at my car window
after an argument, ten blocks from our house,
black-passion clouding the green
of his eyes
pounding his fist against the dash & his
rage into my ears until
I opened my door
& ran—

In the dark
I hid
behind a cypress tree
whose sea-serpent roots
became my toeholds,
palms flat against rough bark
Crouched, I could have been a child playing.

What kind of mother would I be
without the anchor of fear that keeps my face
just barely above the
rising tide,
If I’d never said to a friend
on a thick summer night
after too much wine
“If something happens to me
he did it.”

What kind of mother could I be
if instead of explaining what a bad childhood
Dad had
& wondering
if I’m setting you up for a lifetime of similarly
cold & broken men,
If we could have the carefree kid silliness
that I had with my own mother,
Simon Says, armfuls of daffodils, scary movies
with all of the lights turned off
& a whole Hershey bar to myself,
a Cabbage Patch doll for each visit to the
I want to make our darkness disappear for you
gift you
the teenage bonding, nurturing
over heartache, friends over for sleepovers,
a party for making the volleyball team…
anything but the fibrous connection of love,
& guilt that we have,
bonding over the black eye that
your father gave you.

Emily Mosley


Emily Mosley grew up in a small lakeside cabin in rural Georgia, but has spent the last six years in the gritty wonderland that is New Orleans. She can often be found sneaking into strangers’ yards to smell their flowers and pet their cats, and is mother to three surly but hilarious daughters.

© 2020