Emily Pérez

Advice to my Younger Self:  Winter

One night you will learn you are soon
to be abandoned, cast outdoors.

This news may cause you some alarm.
Swallow it and savor those last hours.

You’ll have years to assign the anger, blame.
For now hold them close. They’ll keep you warm.

The day will start with a long hike. You’ll receive
a crust of bread, an afternoon’s low fire,

and you will take a nap, a few hours to believe
you are still loved, and maybe you misheard—

But night falls, and it’s certain. You’re forgotten,
left to freeze, starve, be eaten alive by wolves.

Allow yourself a moment’s grief for all that’s gone:
your cat, your clothing, your warm bed.

You may shed some tears,
but don’t cry loud or long.

The cold will come; you’ll need energy.
It helps to have a plan before you leave.

On your voyage out you can collect,
then drop along the road

the smoothest stones, the ones that reflect
moonlight, make a lighted trail home.

Or, as the story goes, you could crumble
up your crust of bread and leave a map

sure to be consumed by birds.
It hardly matters. Either way

you’re lost. Either way
you’ll wander into deeper woods.


Emily Pérez is the author of the chapbook Backyard Migration Route (Finishing Line Press). Raised in south Texas, she earned a BA from Stanford and an MFA at the University of Houston, where she served as a poetry editor for Gulf Coast and taught with Writers in the Schools. Her poems have appeared in journals including Crab Orchard Review, Borderlands, The Laurel Review, DIAGRAM, /nor, and Nimrod. She teaches English and Gender Studies in Seattle where she lives with her husband and sons.


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