from the cards, I draw the emperor

it’s hard to pick one man & give him the title—
not that the men I know are interchangeable,
but I don’t want any of them to rule me.
don’t want any of them to claim any thing I see as mine.
of course it isn’t always as simple as that.
can I call my whole body mine
& do I want to even if I can?
but let’s not make this about want again,
not when it’s really about control.
the truth is, I struggle with affection.
I learned it all wrong.
as a teenager, I heard that story about Sylvia Plath—
the one where she meets Ted Hughes at a party
& bites his face while they’re dancing—
& I thought the quickness of it
(the red bloom) was romance.
plus I dissociate whenever I get the chance.
how often have men watched me
watching my fingerjoints
(how they move like unfamiliar insects)
& interpreted it as desire?
a week ago, I slipped into sleep paralysis again.
it’s the most ordinary terror: someone I love
next to me in bed & my mouth open
but not making the sounds I want.

KARAH KEMMERLY grew up in Northern California but currently lives in Corvallis, where she recently graduated with an MFA in poetry from Oregon State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Spectrum Literary JournalThe Tulane ReviewSanta Ana River Review, and the Plath Poetry Project.