Emily Khilfeh

Surpassing All Kings



Enkidu, my friend whom I love, has turned to clay!

Am I not like him? Will I lie down never to get up again?

The Epic of Gilgamesh (10.233-242)



In my mourning I placed a mantle upon myself.

The warm skin of the animals pressed against me

Not yours, but of you. Clay caught in my throat;


I retched into the sand. But I crossed the desert

And the world, entranced by the cool dark searching,

The bruised tartness of the word immortality.


I ignored the pity in the alewife’s eyes, how she traced

Not the slow decay of my sinew and bones,

But the single line of steps that unhinged behind me.


The moment the snake shed its skin I knew you were gone.

I shed, too, the bristling pelt of my grief,

Crossed back the river and built a towering city.


In the dusty brick the people laugh and drink,

Content in their pink flesh and round teeth.

I grow old like an orchard grows old.


Surpassing all kings in my foolishness,

I overlooked all the crumbling years it took to admit

How the sky rests like a blanket over


Boreal desert and splintered stars,

The elegance of being between worlds, that

And the sweet animal fact of you.

The Bulbs



just for fun                let us pretend                      in our hands we held soil


not tin-foil wrappers            red and royal blue                         no ridges crackling on fingers


turn in your palm                       sweet swampy sugar                   not chocolates




bulbs          buried in paper scraps         old documents


a plastic ziplock                         hidden suitcase carefully                   my cousin she laughs


in words we hide                        little illegal things               organic matter is all the same




on Israeli x-rays             say it was a gift                                how could I know?


if they catch you                my father’s wisdom                     all girls love chocolate


even wrapped in steel   they must embrace              all pretty things




and deeper down                    in clean darkness                             that growth promise


small curled hearts                  breathe in the wind              more treasured than safety


my father’s love              look at the corn                                they dancing


EMILY KHILFEH was born and raised in Seattle, WA and the surrounding areas. She is currently completing her bachelor’s degree at Pacific Lutheran University.