Emily McCrary

When I Went Looking For You



I planted a seed in white tissue paper like it was all I had to live for. Carefully, I folded the paper upon itself, in-side-out-side-in-side-out-side; my fingers more ginger than in their real time. I put the wrapping in an envelope, a large one like the ones people use to send cross-continent hope to loved ones living a foreign dream, praying to the Madonna for more time, tiempo mas, Santa Maria. I settled the envelope into a box, taped the edges, and touched its seams that I might die for this seed inside. I kissed the paper and then I kissed my own hands. I put the box in my suitcase, and locked it inside.



I hopped on a train, rode until I got sick for the passengers, so content to rumble along without any intention of sending this hope to their loved ones. I got sick from the smell of coal and the idea of loneliness.


Airplanes, said the man next to me in the terminal, are the future of this world, and so I must be wise to be giving them a try. But I thought of those tiny wheels and said no I cannot cannot cannot—how will I stay grounded? So when the plane landed, the attendant helped me pull my suitcase from the rack; I felt his fingers so ginger like the air we had just floated on, so pure that they must never have done any wrong. I could think of not one time when they had hurt me. I wondered if it was fate, and I decided that strangers must be the safest people to love.

Bicycles are low to the ground, but my calves began to feel like my knees swallowed those sweet Chinese oranges. A man in Paris told me that I was lovely and drove me to the border where you and I had made love in a make-believe language, which I later found was just French.


I became so tired of being safe. I chose my feet.



I got lost in the desert. Having heard stories of your walking here, I put my ear to the ground waiting to hear the thump of your footsteps, praying to feel you move. That night, the moon told me that you had been here, but that you were gone, but not forever, that if I just kept moving, if I could just keep moving, if nothing else but keep moving, if I could move—then I might hear you walking again.


So I kept moving. I moved through clay passes and soft hills mossy and wet. I moved through a town of faces who told me you had been here too. I moved down sidewalks and through hat stores in case you had come through, looking for something to keep you warm. I moved through four cities and twelve houses I tried to call home. I put my ear to the ground. I moved through a jungle and swam through a river. I crossed a battlefield of angry men and I killed them all. I wiped sweat from my face and I walked on.  I moved back home. I moved in with hatred and out again.  I moved to music I heard in dive bars. I jumped into lakes and swam to the bottom. I put my ear to the ground. I stumbled into the wrong places at the right time. I walked into strangers’ homes and asked if they had heard you there. When they said no, I told them to listen and I moved on. I walked in a parade and showered in confetti. I moved past endless bodies that had no feeling to them. I moved away from home because I could no longer smell you there. I moved into the wilderness and I ran in circles.


Somewhere in a crowd, I met a man who told me he knew you. He said he had heard of your being in town. He knew you liked to ride by the river. Someone had heard you there.


I ran. I ran because there was nothing on Earth but running! The sound of my own footsteps was like new again. The wash of noise grew and grew like two palms rubbing together in my ears. I ran!


I fell in love with the sound of your footsteps. The sound of your footsteps—the sound of your footsteps— I heard them on a sidewalk in our hometown. Like they had always been behind me. I danced to their music like a girl in love. And I stopped.


Here I found you

darling, you


I opened the metal locks, rusted now,

from the days I lost your hope in the mail,

and inside was the box just as I had last touched it

I broke the seal

and inside was the white tissue— burst.

It had been ripped as a piece of flesh,

pitifully broken.


But thumping beneath,

thud, thud, thud,

was a heart—out of body—




Emily McCrary is a writer, editor, and artist living in Raleigh, NC. Her work has appeared in Outrageous Fortune, Blunderbuss, theNewerYork, and was a runner-up for the 2010 Anthony Abbott Poetry Prize. Follow her work at www.thedailyflux.tumblr.com, or on Twitter @emilymccrary.