Emily Townsend

The Aberrated Scopophiliac: Diamond Heights

All three of you are rosé-drunk, dirty mojito-drunk, bourbon Manhattan-drunk:
the couple collapsed on the couch still in bar clothes,
you slouched in the canary yellow armchair that never gets comfortable
because you are a desolate voyeur watching them, the men
entangled, your friend the little spoon leaning back,
his boyfriend running fingers through his hair, smiling at the simplicity

of such a complicated scene. You feel like you’re not supposed
to witness this; it’s a director’s cut never meant to air.
Slow music glosses over the apartment.
The bulb of your heart edges your chest,
exhausting your atria, gasping to be drained
from lack of air, because you’ve never had this moment.
The history of fingerprints to have smeared your canvas is short.

Their cuddle evanesces over your body, a phantom of a touch
uncharted. After infancy you have never been held
as tightly as your heart feels. This longing
asphyxiates your cortex, and for the moment
slowly you disappear outside of your frame, somehow
seeing the back of your head facing the men, staring at
the semi-conscious girl, roaring for those absent
to notice that you have so much love to give.

In the morning the sheets are the softest things
that’ve ever grazed your skin. The men appear in the doorway
holding hands, asking if you’re ready to leave.
You’ve been ready since the first drop of rum
sunk into your tongue, a week ago.
They take you to the Oakland airport

where at the other end of the flight
no one waits for you, and you unpack
your suitcase void of souvenirs.

Your Hippocampus is Narcissistic

Alcatraz Island is hit by a diminuendo of waves
and all the noises—Saturday night traffic, homeless
concerts of profanity, panhandlers drunkenly stumbling
through Pier 39—weaken against one feeble

echo of a scream, or maybe you imagined it
thundering into your cortex, tickling
one selfish response:

                                             How is it that you can hear someone
                                             cry out when no one ever hears you?

You ask if your friend has also caught it,
the vehement siren to be fathomed.
“Maybe a sea lion?” he suggests.
“They spend their nights at the docks.”

The voice in the city
sounded human.

That screech nuzzles your amygdala,
conundrumming a paradox stitched
into your blood—

Screaming means you are alone.
                                         Screaming means you are not alone.

Eustachian tubes swell up, vibrating,
pulsating as you walk away from the wharf,
away from the descending clatter of seagulls
pecking rancid scraps and bums
snatching trash snacks. You desperately
want this voice out of your head, but

you choose to remember
                                         what you most want to forget.

Author Portrait

Emily Townsend is a graduate student in English at Stephen F. Austin State University. Her works have appeared in Superstition Review, Thoughtful Dog, Noble / Gas Qtrly, Santa Clara Review, and others, and are forthcoming in cream city review, cahoodaloodaling, The Coachella Review, Kettle Blue Review, and ANGLES. A 2017 AWP Intro Journals Award nominee, she is currently working on a collection of essays in Nacogdoches, Texas.