Lynn Emanuel, Valentine

“PORTRAIT OF THE AUTHOR AS RAOUL” is what any valentine should be: foxy, dazzling, twisted, over-the-top, and smart-ass. It’s a long-term relationship we’re having; I’ve loved this poem for over a decade. I’m caught by: the house of the body, the heart’s dull return and lob, the dark eyes of staring breasts, the beautiful and tragic face. I’m wild for the speaker that becomes the lover and the lover that commands the speaker to take off her dress and the speaker that takes off her “black silk frock. / (A what?) // Frock. On the floor […]” and in the end isn’t sure if she’s the speaker or the lover.

I get that.

And I’m foolishly satisfied by anything that ends with a person brought to their knees.

— Lynn Melnick

Lynn Emanuel, “Portrait of the Author as Raoul”


Today I write about the house
of the body and about myself, 

its shadowy proprietor, 
coming and going. 

Above the street, beside a fan 
and a half-inch of bourbon 

floating in a tumbler, someone’s 
white face pokes a hole 

in a dark window. It’s me, 
in Raoul’s body. 

The rain stings the window 
and the nothing beyond. 

The rain throbs steadily 
as the heart’s dull return and lob. 

Bending over the woman on the bed 
Raoul says, Take off your dress

I’ll take my dress off, the woman says. 
And then the sibilant whisper 

of a black silk frock. 
(A what?) 

Frock. On the floor. 
Also hosiery. Also black. 

Suddenly naked or wearing 
only flawless technique 

and the dark eyes of staring 
breasts, the story ends 

either (A) 

Bending over her 
beautiful and tragic face 

against the pillows, Raoul says, 
Oh Lynn, Lynn you bring me to my knees. 

or (B) 

Gazing up into my own 
beautiful and tragic face, I say 

Oh Raoul, You bring me to my knees. 


[more Valentine’s Day poems]



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Open to any author writing in English about the Chicanx/Latinx experience, the Rivera Book Prize is committed to the discovery and fostering of extraordinary writing by a first-time or early career author whose work examines the long and varied contributions of Chicanx/Latinx in the US. The Rivera Book Prize aims to provide a platform that showcases the emerging literary talent of the Chicanx/Latinx community, to cultivate the next generation of Chicanx/Latinx writers, and to continue the rich literary memory of Tomás Rivera, Chicano author, poet, activist, and educator.

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