Asexual Ode to Dolly Parton
That summer I listened to Jolene six
times every time I got in the car & I sang
along hard enough to believe it, that it
was as simple as there always being an other
waiting, flame-haired, spring-breathed, to take
the one I wanted to call mine only. As if
the problem wasn’t my longing. Lack thereof.
& there was so much longing locked into
Dolly’s looping curls. I thought if I loud-sang
enough, hard-listened enough, I could learn it.
How to woman myself the way everyone wanted
me to. O Dolly, patron saint of shoulder fringe
& sequins, high priestess of Lee Press Ons
& hairspray, how long your longing held me,
summer-voiced, soft enough to show me
how every kind of love’s a force that sends you
to your knees, begging, even if I couldn’t love –
again – in a way I could make any other understand.
Emma Bolden (she/her) is the author of House Is an Enigma (Southeast Missouri State University Press), medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press), and Maleficae (GenPop Books). The recipient of an NEA Fellowship, her work has appeared in The Norton Introduction to Literature, The Best American Poetry, The Best Small Fictions, and such journals as the Mississippi Review, The Rumpus, StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, New Madrid, TriQuarterly, Shenandoah, and the Greensboro Review. She currently serves as Associate Editor-in-Chief for Tupelo Quarterly.