Friday, September 30, 2011

Experiments in Text: Olden Days

Another experiment. Not sure about this, but it's fun (and a little scary!) to stretch. More to come, maybe.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

It Depends

It Depends

My answer to any question:
It depends.

All answers need annotation.
Show your

work, math teachers tell us,
and give credit

for the process and partial

The deep end of experience
and knowledge

can be siphoned, spooned out
for us based

on what we have to hold it in.
How can

every action be equal, every

solved and dissolved with one
word, one verb

or proverb smoothing over the

circumstance, as peanut butter
sliding onto

still-warm toast. The temperature
of the bread

matters, the type of peanut butter,
the knife.

Response depends upon the laws
of gravity,

which planet, which people and
what they know

of one another, the discussion
one just finished

at home and the just-diagnosed
gluten allergy

of the other, the season, the rain
that just let up

and the sharp, candied-citrus smell
of the detergent

on the rim of her glass as she raises
it to her mouth.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Counting Chickens

Counting Chickens

The day does what it always does:
goes away. We convince ourselves

to forget with contentment, with
fatigue. Who are we when we sleep.

Why do we need unconsciousness.
We lie down, position our bodies

so they are parallel to the floor
and beneath it, the ground, and

scoop up the night’s ration of
stillness. It’s still early. If we can

fall asleep now, we will have almost
seven hours of rest, at least six

solid hours. We pile them up like
ice cubes in a glass, and in the glow

of our attention, they drip, disappear.
That panic you have felt at 3 AM

is real, but was not caused by what
you thought it was, a phone number

you meant to dial earlier and did not,
the money you sent or spent. Count

out three long draughts of oxygen
to nudge your mind back toward sleep.

It’s late tonight, but still early, no light
in the sky yet for tomorrow. Every year,

we relearn how old we are by subtracting
the year of our first recorded appearance

from the year the calendar says it is.
We need time to keep starting over.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Light House

Light House

Light, the mother tongue,
a tungsten tongue in
a glass mouth. The throat
opens, exhales heat into
the bulb and the voice
splashes out for our eyes.
Illuminated air and ground,
clarity, warmth. The world
makes room for us, we think,
shows us where to go with
light, walk here, live here,
drive here. We create the road
by pouring our headlights
over it so we can see and move.
And in the well-lit places
where the sun is not enough,
bulbs tell us to hurry, that
we are wanted there now.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Video: Ships Set Out

A Prezi for you (Prezi is a type of presentation software that allows zooming, and it is my new addiction) of my poem, "Ships Set Out." To view it, you have a couple of options. One option: click the "Play" button, and then move the cursor to the right side of the video onto "More," and click "Autoplay" (the video will play through without you having to press anything). The other option: Click the "Play" button, and then click the play button to move through the poem, line by line (after you've read each line). The circle button will allow you to zoom in on the very start of the poem (the title), or zoom out so you can see all of the text at once (if you get stuck here, press the "play" button).

Hope you enjoy it! And if you make a Prezi, be sure to share...

Thursday, September 22, 2011



When I crunch into the apple,
or when I walk or jump,
I can feel the holes

in my face sloshing around in
response. The infection
is gone, but the sinuses

are still sensitive, cringing
at how brazenly my
muscles and bones

canter across the pavement,
the tile. Our bodies
are full of pockets,

both full and empty, and they
stay silent for so long,
until they speak.

They communicate to us in
discomfort or pressure,
speak with pinches

and elbows and fists. The reward
for listening is pain, and
a clear source of

what hurts. The body cries, and
we hold it while it settles,
searching for sleep.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011



Let’s name the buildings here
after the families that did not

die first. A hardware store,
Boardman’s Tools, is inserted

into the ancestral line. Then
a library. Next, Boardman

Ford and Boardman Honda,
Boardman Heights High School

and Stadium. Each new structure
is an ageless baby, a borrowed

forefather. The city and its
inhabitants, blood brothers,

Boardmans. The family name
crawls onto the land, Boardman

Avenue and Pier, Boardman
Bay. Genes waft through the city

like pollen, like the smog clinging
to the scalp of Boardman Tower.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Copier's Mouth

The Copier’s Mouth

What’s the word for
when we mistake the thing
for what it looks like.

The purple and blue
polka-dotted umbrella under
the desk looks just like mine.

It is. Ownership is not
my first thought, but familiarity,
recognition of form and color.

What is this the evidence
of, my delay in comprehension,
a cognitive pause. It’s Platonic,

this problem, forms with
a capital or lowercase F, the object
blocking the light or the shadow.

The new copy machine
makes copies and takes pictures
of words that can be emailed.

I forget the document
in the copier’s mouth, so I download
the file and print it out.

Which version should
we work from. I can’t not double
check my copy against yours.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Video: Matters

A new poetry video for my poem, "Matters" (click the link to see full text of this poem).

I love how I can hear a woman in the background saying, "That makes sense."

Hope it's a good weekend for you, full of sense and nonsense.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Always Dangerous

Always Dangerous

Backing your car out is what,
asks the state of California
on their written driver’s test.

I got it wrong. California says
that it is D, always dangerous.
I chose B, that backing your

car out is safe only when you
do it with caution. If I wrote in
always, I would be more right,

I can think of ten examples
in which backing out is no threat
to any creature or object,

like when the parking lot
is empty and fenced in, when
I have already checked that

no cat is sleeping beneath
the car’s warm belly, that
the gravel is sturdy enough

to hold the car and that
no asteroid is shuttling out
toward Earth right now.

Even today, pulling out of
the faculty lot at the same time
as the car next to me was

not a dangerous situation.
The professor next to me braked,
and held out an empty hand,

palm up, go ahead, and finished
singing along to the song I could
hear through our closed windows:

Everything, everything will be
just fine, everything, everything
will be alright, alright.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Home Row

Home Row

Home row. Middle C.
Hands on the wheel
at 10 and 2 can easily

slide to 11 and 3
or 9 and 1. The melody
is right, but not the key,

the shirt is closed,
but buttoned askew,
an extra hole exposed

and no button for it.
A shape and the new
shape it makes, shifted.

The clockwise gait
of the waltz, spinning
in order to navigate

the dancers around
the room, their feet
lifting and pushing down

as if signing the floor
in triplicate, pressing
equally to be sure

that the Windsor knot
of their name winds up
copied in the right spot.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Mile

The Mile

The mile is elastic,
can shrink or stretch
based on how we
are traveling on it,

and why. The highway
mile is one minute long
on a clear road, but
twenty minutes long

in a blizzard or
under jackhammers.
The city mile
is a punctured path,

punctuated by
the driver’s toes
pressing down
beneath a red light

that briefly appears,
a lollipop offered,
withdrawn. A country mile
means many, vast acreage

spilling over the earth.
The mile we were
told to walk in gym class,
four times around

the black track, and
the mile I actually
walked, hiding behind
the bleachers halfway

around, waiting for
the class’s faster
runners to pass me
three times

and then jogging out,
breathing hard
to show how far and fast
I could have gone.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Olden Days

Olden Days

The olden days. The vague, full-skirted
past. Everything that happens or lives

belongs to it, to the cape flung round
the shoulders of each molecule.

The olden days are comforting, memory
that exists with no mind to box it in,

a pasture. Butter churns and chain mail.
Alchemy, chimney sweeps, pin curls

and blood letting and powdered skin.
Those charming ignorances that did not

result in death or hatred or pain, like
mistaking the weather for moody gods,

or fearing what reading novels might do
to ladies reclining on velvet furniture.

When your body fails, as it is intended to,
the humans you have known and made

and spoken to will think of you. The past
will always be there for them and

for you, a darkness we were borrowed
from that waits for us to return.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Audio: The Wait

Today's audio (of my poem from last October, "The Wait") goes out to all of us who have felt like we have been focused on waiting for something to happen.

When I wrote this poem, I was thinking about how anxious anticipation can kill the present. In the last year or so, I've made the conscious effort to allow important dates and events to approach and then happen, without ignoring the hours and days available to me right now.

It's a real challenge, especially for deadline-driven, procrastinator me (see "Something PM" for more on this). But I've felt both busy and productive because of it, which is a good thing.

How do you deal with knowing that change is approaching? How do you prevent it from interfering with you-in-the-present?

Have a listen, then have a long look at this gorgeous image (by Margareta Bloom Sandebeck) that inspired the poem. Then have a wonderful weekend.

The Wait by The Storialist

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Something PM

Something PM

Delay it if you can
until something PM,

some late hour when
completing a task

feels like wizardry.
I’ll do it later, we can

say, so certain that
a later version of us

will own the tools
and know where

they are kept, and
how to use all of them

at once. Later means
there is more time

where this portion
came from, a silo

of time, a well of it
waiting for us when

we are ready. Then,
we go to it, gripping

lists of commands:
verb this noun, now,

we have written down
actions just so we can

scribble them out,
and at the other end of

accomplishment we will
wave a list still titled

To Do but unintelligible
thanks to our efficiency

and how reliably
our actions disappear.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011



Let us sit on the floor together.
I’ll lift the words from a picture book,

make them into sound, push them toward your
head so your eyes and ears can argue

over them. This story has been said
to you to lessen your fear of sleep,

of turning from the shapes in your house
to the nebulous darkness without

design. Always, the urge to delay
sleep. It is so weird that the body

demands so much idleness, hours
with the eyelids pulled shut. Stories help,

especially those we’ve heard before.
They come from us, a chorus. We call

them back when we need them, memorize
their numbers and phonemes, the way they

like to leave us. This book belongs to
you, every day you forget it more.

Monday, September 5, 2011



A woman walks by the cemetery,
holds a barrel-chested bulldog
in her arms. The red leash draped
between them slaps her hip
when she walks.

What happens near the cemetery
seems significant because it is near
the cemetery, but usually, it is not.

The woman and her tired dog.
Because she loves him, she does not
make him walk. The heat takes it out
of him, she knew it before leaving
the house that morning.

All breathing sounds like a machine at work.
The dog’s rattles like a garbage disposal
chewing on the seeds from a grapefruit.

The cemetery is always there.
We are used to thinking around it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Video: Undertown

(full text of Undertown here.)

Have a wonderful weekend, and thank you so much for your comments (always, and this week).

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Content May Be Disturbing

Content May Be Disturbing

Warning: content may be disturbing
to some viewers. It depends who you are,

and your tolerance for the repulsive,
what category of grotesque slinks along

your eyeballs, sinking into your mind
when it is relaxed. The body always bothers

us, how injury discolors flesh,
perturbs the otherwise pleasing anatomical line

we use as a backdrop for desire.
Some content will upset you, it is bound

to happen. The awful and hideous,
it slithers toward us, even once we turn away.

Blood. Snakes. Scorpions. Lobsters
staring at you from the tepid tank at the store

like a mangy puppy caged in the pound.
Even nurses’ stomachs can churn, so what does

that mean for the rest of us. There are
unpleasantries for which no euphemism has been

assigned. There’s no controlling this,
that the body fails, that we are scared, and revulsion

lets us turn from the fear fondling us.
There are things you do not want to see up there.

Maybe we can take turns looking.
I’ll tell you when it’s safe. Not yet. Don’t look.

The Storialist. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.