Spotlight series #93: Emma Rhodes

rob mclennan
4 min readJan 1, 2024

Curated by Canadian writer, editor and publisher rob mclennan, the “spotlight” series appears the first Monday of every month.


And still

It sounds like you’re so afraid
of making things up
you’re discounting
your real feelings.

Go to the water.
Pack a hot drink and walk step step, see.

witness another giant and moving body:
incomprehensible and okay with it.

It, too, is cold tonight. It, too,
may not want this movement and yet

filled to the brim with tears.
Familiar salt in unfamiliar terrain,

you could be friends. Think
how often the sea is penetrated,

how kind and hostile a host it is known to be,
how many worlds it fosters, below, and look

inward. Feel the beating and the movement,
the tide you want so badly to lose. Just listen,

take a sip of the hot drink, feel it
warm on its trek down the sad, cold,

unknown living. The body
The body knows
The body knows
The body knows.

I wrote this poem when I was struggling to trust my own feelings/my gut — something that is difficult for many trauma survivors. My friend gave me the advice that forms the first stanza of the poem. I walked to the lake, because I believe there is something so generative about water — it’s why I think so many poets come from Vancouver and the East coast! The poem is a reflection on how the lake is itself a trauma survivor, and a reminder to trust my body and its intrinsic knowledge/power.

Choking hazard: Avoid Eating

There are zygotes in my throat
and I can’t choke them out, someone,
someone, Heimlich maneuver me, they say

Sorry, it’s illegal. Those are babies.
Can’t you feel those little arms
clawing at your uvula?

Don’t breathe. It’ll push them
further down, and once they settle in
your uterus there’s really no helping you

Better to softly suffocate, they say.

And father says calm down.
Don’t be so over dramatic,
this doesn’t affect you.

But their zygotes are in my throat.
My life is her life is their life, all of us
will stop breathing, loosen our lungs,

until, upon our death,
filled up with gas, the little arms,
will float on out.

Death born of death,
the cycle we’re forced in to.

I wrote this poem in the wake of the dissolution of Roe v. Wade. Recently, I’ve been reading Eve: The Disobedient Future of Birth by Claire Horn, which provides a very nuanced perspective on the implications of artificial womb technology — and could mean that women and pregnant people who want abortions could be forced to bring a child to term through artificial wombs. This world’s hatred of women and the feminine is something that terrifies me to seemingly no end.

Dear Me,

This space is just my vibe.

I love the way your skin stretches over mine, so gentle
and decorated. Like bathing in oat milk and lavender,
we can be soft here.

I know what I said, but sometimes
a floral milk bath feels like drowning in weeds.
What have we done to deserve such decadence?

what if our broken aligned
and we saw the same thing?

I so want to mend
the movement with the tension.
Want them to come from the same place.

I want to apologize
for making your skin fit
over my hatred. I didn’t mean for bruises.

I promise I love you, or
I am really trying
to love you.

I keep Band-Aids in my pocket,
stock up on lavender.

We will be an active whole.
Nurtured from the inside out.

I want to give you water and vegetables

and all things to keep you here.

This poem began in a virtual workshop from Trans and Queer Community Group Songs of Ourselves. The workshop encouraged participants to write love letters to their queer selves. As a baby queer, it’s been a learning process! This poem also provides the title for a chapbook made with my dear friends and writing companions, The Egg Poets, titled All Things to Keep You Here (Homerow Chapbook Series #1).

Emma Rhodes (she/her) is a queer writer currently living and working in Tkaronto/Toronto. She is the author of the chapbook Razor Burn (Anstruther Press), and the joint chapbook with the Egg Poets Collective All Things to Keep You Here (Qwerty Homerow Chapbook Series). Her work has been published in Contemporary Verse 2, Prism International, Plenitude, and elsewhere. You can find her at