Tuesday, September 28, 2010



The first time she read the book
the ceiling cracked.
In bed, she watched the plaster
above her. The crack
looked longer in the morning.

The second time she read the book
the house creaked
and popped, as if uncrossing its legs.
Her bed shook for
a few minutes, waking her briefly.

The third time she read the book
she turned pages
cautiously. A test. In the morning,
her hair was full
of plaster bits, brittle as broken eggshell.

She left the book on a bench.
But she dreams
of the book, and when she wakes,
her body is covered
in shattered plaster and shards of wood.

Monday, September 27, 2010



Before the train can run, it needs context.
Hills and flat expanses for you to glue
grass onto, hollows for you to fill with resin,
your water. Glue a roadbed, and then the track.
Decide where the train will go, and who will
take this train. How far along are they
in their journey? Suggest the presence
of the people, a town. You can name this place,
paint it on a sign with a fine brush,
stick the sign post into the green once it has adhered.

Now that people live here, you give them
businesses, trades. The post office.
The bakery. Almond-sized loaves of bread
and a flag and flagpole that you sink into
the land like a birthday candle into cake.

Two deer at the edge of one pond.
You dip a toothpick in white paint
and touch it to their eyes so that they leap
into life. A mailman heading west,
his blue satchel heavy with correspondence.
A woman in a red coat and her boy
approaching the bakery.
What joy she must feel when the train passes.
Her son turns his face to her, grinning,
then turns back to watch the train leave.

Thursday, September 23, 2010



Three things in the air at once:
plane, pigeon, fly.

I drove the fly here. It clung
to my windshield,

little fly wings almost ripped
from its body

by the speed, the wind against it.
This red light

was his cue to hop off, his stop.
The pigeon sat

with four other pigeons within
telephone wires,

resting on alternating parallel
lines. Sheet music.

The one pigeon flaps frantically,
as far as I can tell,

uncued, rises over the intersection.
A moment later

the others join in, leave the wires
bare and silent.

The plane is small to me, no bigger
than a bird

and its flight is linear, unhurried.
We all must

move while others watch, us Earthly
passengers, pilots.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Last Resort First

Last Resort First

The last resort, we try it first.
We pretend all else has failed,
elbow our way into desperation.

Big changes happen faster.
Families leave large homes
for small ones, or for condos.

Cartoons provide a model
for effective decision making.
Shove the broken car off a cliff.

Popular new first date activities?
Elopement and annulment,
and shopping for burial plots.

University enrollment skyrockets
and plummets. Those who have
tasted failure rush to the bakery,

the bar, beg to work the register.
Abandoned houses are bulldozed.
Concrete is poured into the cavern

formerly reserved for the new
subway line. Long before that
beachfront commune opened

and citizens of Detroit fled to
Canada, as refugees, we forgot
that our panic had been pretend.

Monday, September 20, 2010



In one section of the woods, the trees began to burn
with messages. The townspeople took it for fire,
at first, but when the little Thornton girl grabbed for the light
and pulled her hand out, unscathed, they knew
that this light didn’t consume what it touched.

It was decided that this was an Oracle. After all,
the light flashed enormous letters through the trees,
one after another, as if sprung from an invisible giant’s hand.
In shifts, the townspeople gathered near the Oracle,
transcribing the letters as they came onto a computer.

The Oracle was undaunted by weather. Through rain,
letters blazed, and snow stuck to light for only an instant
before vanishing. And though they kept recording the letters,
making sense of the Oracle’s words was problematic.
They could not agree on where to break the light into words.

Sometimes the Oracle shone characters they had never
seen. Others, the transcribers disagreed on the letter.
There were discrepancies among the texts, and after a number
of townspeople complained of headaches and blurred vision,
it was determined that prolonged exposure to the Oracle

damaged eyesight, who knew how permanently.
They kept coming to stare at the Oracle, but stopped
putting its letters into a computer. A woman packed up the equipment,
and a man watched her, her face translucent and lineless
in the glow. Janie Thornton, will you marry me? he asked.

More and more frequently, the letters don’t belong
to our alphabet. Or any on record. The light never
flickers, never goes out. The townspeople visit the radiance in the woods,
and the older ones can’t shake the habit of staring
into the light, waiting for a word that they’ll know.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Intercom On

The Intercom On

You left the intercom on.
When you left, you left it on.

Intermittently, it transmits
bits of movement: a mouse’s

whispered click, windchimes.
Pages turning and rubbing against

other pages. Maybe it’s my
intercom, acting up, picking up

little noises, echoes. Static.
Inner intercoms do not have an off.

The switch can be flicked,
but is only a reminder to listen.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Last to Leave

Last to Leave

The last to leave stands at the door,
facing in, finger resting on the light switch.
Before stemming the flow of light, he gazes
across the room. He feels such fondness
for this place. His computer, his colleagues’
computers, are tucked into themselves,
sleeping hens. The black netted chairs
have been parked neatly beneath the desks.
The end-of-day tidying undoes the work
of the day. The phone, the keyboard,
the chairs--who knows the last time
they were touched. Satisfied, he presses
the switch. He pulls the knob in leaving,
joins the door with the wall it was cut from.
This flock is his. He welcomes locking up.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Visible Zipper

The Visible Zipper

The visible zipper:
miniature train tracks
announcing where
the dress closes,
skinny steel vertebrae
stacked to the neck.

The garment’s work
exposed, a process
accentuated. A seam
meant to be seen.

Decorative, useful,
easily cajoled up or
down. The fence
between fabric and
flesh. Concealment
regularly undone.

Thursday, September 9, 2010



We are on the seventh floor of our buildings,
across the street from one another.

I see you every day, shoes off, heavily leaning
onto an elbow, hunched over the phone

protectively. Below your office, a health club,
a pool. Early in the day, women

in black suits slip in and out of the teal water,
their hair or caps glossy as sealskin.

To the left, the treadmills, four across. Upper
torsos, pumping arms, horses anxious

in their stalls. Is it nearness or privacy we crave,
neighbor? I watch you, and fill in your

silence: the copy machine spitting out sheets
behind you, the clink of her hand

on the metal ladder as she pulls her body from
the pool, the phone bleating

until you to touch it. Answer it so that a voice
might fill your ear. Answer.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Once More With Feeling

Once More With Feeling

Once more with feeling,
and then again, without.

Startle the pigeons.

Try it low and flat,
so absent of panic that
I am alarmed.

Lose the triumphantly raised fist,
but sure, give me your hands
upturned, reaching,
wrapped around my throat,
my pulse on your wrists.

With gusto, with force,
the way you would eat alone, in the evening,
after not eating all day.

And again,
haltingly, as if struggling
with pronunciation or legibility.

Kick aside the podium
to show me how much you love me,
and stub the microphone out
like a cigarette.

Ask a question you do not expect anyone to answer,
and wait, patiently
until someone speaks,
most likely me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Use the House Against Itself

Use the House Against Itself

Smash the dishes in their shelves.
Take a shovel to the oven, the windows.
Rifle glasses at the ceiling. Rip handfuls

of blinds from the wall. Fling forks
into the walls like darts, and hang
from the blades of the fan until

they snap off. Use the house against
itself, level the place. Unbury every
covered thing, even the mud

beneath the floorboards. Pull the bricks
from the wall to see how they land.
Wreck the house. Rebuild it into rubble.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Cutest Thing I Have Ever Seen

The Cutest Thing I Have Ever Seen

A cute thing begs hyperbole,
rhetorical questions:
aren’t you just the cutest...

It is little, an it, a thing, small
and low to the ground.
We bend to it, make ourselves

smaller, and squeal in baby voice.
Speech gets tiny and high
to match what is cute, a dialect

of cooing and mock surprise.
We widen our eyes at
the helpless little creature,

it is so small, after all, and
all alone in the big bad
world, weak and can get

picked up by any pair of hands.
In the presence of what
is so cute that we cannot stand it,

we want to eat this thing up,
to protect it by eating it,
hiding it from any pain.

Thursday, September 2, 2010



Cork is talented with holes
because it is inlaid with them.

Cork can close them up,
can crawl into a bottle’s mouth

and silence the wine
in its throat and belly. Cork

welcomes the nail and pin.
It is good at getting pierced,

at gripping the sharp edge
back. Similarly, we are gifted

in loss. Experiences fall
from us as they happen, baby

teeth, jettisoned potential.
People leave, get shipped off

to other dimensions. Even
memories go away, burn out

like stars. Let us learn from
cork, from our talent for having

things taken away, our
adoration of the irretrievable.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In Broad Daylight

In Broad Daylight

In the light, in the fat-tipped fingers
of light flung on earth. Easily seen

by the naked eye, readily identified.
Acts on display, splayed under the sun.

In public, available equally to passers by
and nearly-imperceptible lifters of drapes.

Wide light, amoral, indiscriminate.
A climate best suited to pleasantries

or exhibitionists. Well-lit, unflinching,
the conditions that promote noticing,

awareness. A sequence of events
rendered undeniable, plain as day,

true. An occurrence to be viewed,
witnessed. The authority of surface.
The Storialist. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.