Emily Polson

— Philadelphia, PA
Each Victorian skull is labeled with name, age,
country, and cause of death. My sister-in-law laughs
at the man who cut off his testicles,

but the girl behind me tells her boyfriend,
Maybe he was born in the wrong body,
and back then, they didn’t know

about that. I appreciate her empathic pull
to stories. I wonder if 18-year-old Veronica Huber—
executed for the murder of her child—might have been

single, starving, scared. I cringe every time
someone laughs at the “idiot” and “imbecile”
—antiquated labels for disabled minds.

At least the 20-year-old Italian tightrope
walker died doing what he loved,
the girl says.
My heart sinks for the 28-year-old Protestant

who shot himself over “the weariness
of life,” the starving Polish Catholic who sliced
his own neck, expecting to wake up in Hell.

I watch the couple wander among half-formed
fetuses and baby bones, my own curiosity mirrored
in a giant’s skeleton, a shriveled heart in a jar.

Emily Polson holds a BFA in creative writing from Belhaven University and has been published in Catfish Creek, Book Riot, and the Brogue. Originally from central Iowa, she now lives in Brooklyn and works in book publishing.