Friday, November 19, 2010



No sugar. Instead, honey.
Or maple syrup.

No basil. Some other herb
for it, oregano, cilantro.

No milk, cereal in the bowl.
Box already in the trash.
Orange juice. Half and half. Coffee,
depending on desperation.

No finishing nails or screwdriver.
Screws, hammered in.
Quickly and with force.

No top button. A safety pin.
A brooch, pinned with its face
inside the blouse. Tape. Glue.
Sealed with clear nail polish.
Hair gel. Hairspray.
Careful posture.

No gym. The yoga DVD.
What you can remember of yoga class
last year, reenacted in the living room,
blinds closed, towel folded on the floor.
Five minutes of stretching.
Twenty stomach crunches. Jumping jacks.
One push up.

Seven things to finish today,
tomorrow if you do not get to all of them.
Starting one now, and at least one later,
after lunch. At least one more before sleeping.
Four items in a list on a scrap of paper.
Titled Goals for Next Week.
Crossed out and retitled Don’t Forget.


  1. Paragraphs 2,3,5,6 and 7 apply to me easily...too funny to read a poem about it. Only you can make it sound so poetic! : ) Have a great weekend Hannah! xo

  2. Fun to read.

    Have a lovely weekend.

  3. from Therese L. Broderick -- The picture which inspired this poem suggests that substitution is closely related to interchangeable parts. If so, would you, Hannah, consider dropping the existing last stanza altogether (about things to do), and maybe ending the poem instead by repeating the first stanza? That is, after the exercise, the speaker of the poem goes back to sugar, honey, maple syrup.

  4. Hi, Hannah. I agree. I love how you can take everyday life and make it so wonderfully poetic. I love the repetition of "no" until the last stanza. The voice and pacing works beautifully.

    Oh, how I can relate to the "no top button" stanza. That sounds like me going to a job interview...haha! I thought I was the only one in the world who has used the safety pin and brooch trick, so it's nice to know that I'm not alone:)

    Another awesome line that keeps jumping out at me is "depending on desperation." That works perfectly with the voice and the idea of substitution, lack of time, and making do in life.

    And the last stanza (and line) is great and made me smile. I am always so happy when I read your work. It connects with the reader in a big way.

    Have a beautiful weekend!

  5. And I thought I was the only one who did this constantly!

  6. ALl the of the no makes me wonder about the yes. Is the yes a real yes or is it a substitution for the no.;-)

  7. The "No top button" bit is what really solidifies it all for me. I envision this woman patched together with scotch tape and muslin, threatening to fall apart at every step. Love it.

  8. Hannah, you did what was necessary to get the jobs done. It was fun to read about it. It was not mere substitution, it was intuition and courage that got you through. e.g. orange juice on cereal? Oh help us.

    For me, I believe this piece represents a good working example of twenty-first Century poetry.

  9. I laughed out loud when I got to "Careful posture." This list of substitutions reminds me of the way life tends to work out.

    That's funny you mentioned the barely recollected yoga DVD. The same thing happened to me. So many good intentions.

  10. Hi Hannah,
    This poem makes me tense just reading it, it's so close to home! Half finished, trying hard, "to do" lists carried over week to week, exercise sporadic. I'm happy when I get to the stretches and the yoga exercises, remembered from when I was twenty- beach towel laid on the living room floor. This poem captures it all perfectly, and like everyone said, the safety pin for the top button solidifies it, and the screws hammered in.

    I like the last stanza, and I think it is necessary to the poem, but if you were going to take out any of it, I'd consider deleting the first three lines, and leaving the last three lines. I like how the poem ends with something everyone can identify with, and I like the rhythm of it with the rest of the poem:
    "Four items in a list on a scrap of paper.
    Titled Goals for Next Week.
    Crossed out and retitled Don’t Forget."


The Storialist. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.