Friday, December 30, 2011

Experiment in Text: Clover

Thank you for reading this, now and always. A very happy new year to you, full of pale green things...

Thursday, December 29, 2011



The ashtray on the porch
is a houseplant that died.

The cigarette butts look
like the chewed-up stubs

of pencils. In the gaps
between the trash, leaves

small and round as an infant’s
nails. Clover sprouting up

by the half-handful, some
sprigs already strong. You

didn’t water them, but you did
leave the ashtray in the rain.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Next Door

Next Door

Through this door,
another room
and another door.
Another room
through it, more
doors. Assume
every hole is a door,
each space a room.
The gaps in the floor
stand open for you.
You start to look for
the final room,
the exit, the porch,
even a solid broom
closet that can’t pour
you into a new room.
You meet others, for
whom endless rooms
are exhilarating, or
others who assume
that the architecture
knows best, the rooms
are a benevolent force
offering to us new
finishes and textures.
But neither plaster, nor
marble, nor stucco rooms
end your search for
the end of the rooms
or a roomless door.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bad Posture

Bad Posture

Dibs on the broken chair,
the one with the slipped
disc in its lower back.
I know how to hold my
body while sitting in it,
how to allow for the bad
posture of beloved objects.
The fickle deadbolt, stubborn
in winter, easygoing in
spring. The drooling
coffeepot, whose chin
I mop with the yellow
towel with a charred
splotch in one corner.
The gleaming car with
one scratch in it, that car
calls to me. Not what is
wholly ruined. Not what
won’t run. But the chipped,
the scuffed. The runt.
The stuff that lets you see
how it has been touched.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Long Time No See

Long Time No See

When was it that
we last saw one

We use our whole
conversation to
uncover when,

picking through
events and dates,

the times we did
not meet by

and discarding
them, pulling
the peanut

shells with no
peanut inside
from the bag.

It is satisfying
to sort the years
by talking

to each other,
each comparing
our skulled-up

versions of how
we’ve forked
over time.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Experiment in Text: Unsummoned

I think I was drawn to this image because it is so NOT of the season (I guess that's not entirely true....Hanukkah is "The Festival of Lights," so "The Festival of Pyrotechnics" is just one cognitive door down...). I do like imagining this as a holiday card, though...

A very happy holidays to you, whatever it is that you celebrate! I hope you are enjoying the people and things that you love!

(The text in the image above is from "Unsummoned,"---here is the full text.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Just Us Chickens

Just Us Chickens

The you is implied
in any sign, STOP,

you, or hey, you,
this street is called

Liberty Street and
wait for pedestrians,

their human legs
on which they pedal

and propel themselves
across the concrete.

What pronoun would
signs use if they

could, maybe we
or the omniscient I.

What’s the POV
in this story, a student

once asked me,
stripping the letters

from the phrase
fluidly, as we drag

wrapping paper
through the legs of

sharp scissors to cut it.
To ensure privacy,

please turn lock fully
and pull to check,

the sign on the back
of the restroom door

roots for your
modesty by keeping

everyone else out
of the room with you,

grammar curtseying
and tripping over its

skirts to protect the
bond it feels with you:

intimacy so pure that you
mistake it for being alone.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Let Me Look At You

Let Me Look At You

Stand up against this here
wall. Were you always this
tall. I’ll show you, put my
hand where your head is

now. Step back, and look:
your height, how much space
for your body to rise. This is
how others experience your

presence, I wish you could
feel this. The mirror places its
heel over you, squishes,
invents a version of your face,

flipped, flattened. Can you
blink when I do, stare and
think at time so it steadies,
gripped in your open lashes.

Take a look, we say, as we
might reach for a wall, a
light switch, the emergency
brake, to pull and release.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Consult

The Consult

Doctor, it hurts when I do this,
but I can’t stop doing it.

All habits lead to injury,
eventually. Running weakens

the knees, and reading melts
your eyeballs into hazel stew.

Ew. Even the perfect body
is disgusting, intestines and

blood and hair. Hold on to your
stomachs, it is natural to be

repulsed by the matter splashing
around in you, unceremonious

as a child kicking water from
a fountain, shrieking and giddy

in this new knowledge: look how
much I can do before I get in trouble!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Experiment in Text: Eye Contact

Something about those black cows on a green hill, right? Much love to you and your corneas this weekend.

Thursday, December 15, 2011



A path. A stripped-
off stripe of lawn
with the grass gone,
dirt exposed. Gravel
over top, or rock,
or mud. A place
that tells us where
to cross a field
as if it were a
river. A scar we
give to the ground
by pressing down
on it with our feet.
We drag our bodies
around and rubble
trails behind us,
a shadow, a tail
of rattling dust and
debris, plumage
loud as the cans
strung up behind
a sedan proclaiming
Just Married!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Eye Contact

Eye Contact

It’s not that the airplane is small,
but that it is far above us.
The sky is not a tarp, not a blue line
suspended across the top
edge of a sheet of paper. It isn’t even
blue, but appears that way
because of the atmosphere capping
the Earth, the planet’s cornea.
And your cornea. This place is strewn
with corneas strung up before
us like wet bedsheets pinned to a line
stretched through the yard.
Eye contact lets us speak privately,
walkie talkies with channels
that seem silent to all but us. Do you
copy. Honk if you hear me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Attentiveness Is Currency

Attentiveness Is Currency

Limping grocery cart
in the store, and the one
full of trash in the park.

Tangled mess of lobsters
in the supermarket tank,
yellow rubber bands
ringing their claws.

Delicate plastic for
the produce, how we
shake some air into it
to open it.

Chanted needs hovering
in the mind: pepper
pepper pepper.

Voice from behind
the milk that we hear
when we open the case,
I’m tellin’ you, man.

Coffee shop within
the store. Bored barista
adjusting muffins.

Encoded fruit, every
orange numbered.

Monday, December 12, 2011

What Do You Take Me For

What Do You Take Me For

Equally, my cat bats
at the rubber band

I hold above her
and its shadow on

the off-white carpet.
Both seem to reach

for her, then recoil
from under her paw.

The moon glows
when we look at it

through the darkness
at our end, even though

gray rock does not
make light and spill

it down onto us.
We don’t respond to

the thing; we respond
to what it looks like

to us. What do you
take me for, every

circumstance asks, and
we answer by reacting.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Getting Ready

Getting Ready

For how many hours, total,
have you showered.
How many inches of hair
have you sliced off
and let fall. Self-maintenance
is manageable as
a small component of the day,
but if you collected
each sliver of time in a pile,
what structure could
house it. We could fill canyons
with nail clippings
and individually dislodged
strands from our
eyebrows. Getting ready is
a ritual. How will
our bodies and faces appear
to the world today.
Which plans call for the most
We must make ourselves
presentable, must
take responsibility for the
bruisey stripes beneath
our eyes, the texture of skin
and edges of nails.
When you do your hair, do
translates one way
for you, another for me. Do
not rush. Put on
your face so we know who you
are, and let us
take a good, long look at you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011



My lucky fill-in-the-blank.
How does an object earn

our devotion, and how come
certain items yield favorable

outcomes. The heavy clusters
of green plastic grapes dangling

from my earlobes, chosen in
fourth grade to help me pass

my math tests, which,
apparently, conjured three

separate and unexpected fire
alarms in school. You don’t

know a belonging is lucky until
something good happens while

you’re holding it. The blue
guitar pick on the floor of

the post office, waiting for me.
When I drink from the coffee mug

with my name painted in black
script across it, the day will be

good, or will improve. The trick
is to recognize the good luck charm

amidst the junk surrounding you,
the gold lamp with its belly full

of a genie in a headlock versus
the gold lamp full of nothing.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Toys Are Us

Toys Are Us

Toys. Figurines. Dolls
and plastic animals,

hollow, pliable, or stiff
and jointed, as if

life equals limbs that bend.
Hair helps us pretend

that toys breathe when
we touch them, and then

lose consciousness away
from our hands. If they

could reason, they might
see us as gravity, or night,

or hunger. We happen
to them, dance and spin

them around the room,
and let them drop. Zoom

back in time, to the earliest
people: blade in one fist,

rock or clay in the other.
They’d chip a tiny mother

from the stone, or bash
a bird into it. Materials thrash

about in our hands, while
we whittle them down, file

them into totems, our copy
of a being. We are sloppy,

inconsistent, see them as real
and not real. We repeal

their existence when we need
to. Toys and stuffed animals feed

our first experiments in truth
and desire--the dolls of our youth

are pets, children. We call
to our toys, and they all

leap up, paw at our jackets
and faces. The racket

of our own loneliness is loud.
We crave a friendly crowd,

smaller than us, but the same.
We carve them, make a game

of choosing their dresses and
homes, their dreams. They land

at our feet, and we’ve forgotten
we made them. When I was given

my first Barbie, at age five,
I knew that she wasn’t alive

but I could not reconcile her brand
with who she was, couldn’t understand--

But what’s her real name, I kept
asking my parents. I couldn’t accept

any answer. She is a Barbie, so
what’s her real name. Do you know.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Video: Reading at Skylab

Happy December, everyone! On Sunday night, I gave a brief reading at Skylab, and then showed a few video poems (thanks so much for having me, Skylab mad scientists!). I wanted to share two poems with you, especially: "Your Neck of the Woods," and "Pressing Ghosts."

Hope everything is going well in your neck of the woods (and not too cold!).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Caring for Your Memory

Caring for Your Memory

Jog your memory
daily, open the screen door
for it when it whines.

Learn to listen for it,
figure out its sounds and
how to translate them,

its cautionary squeaks
and exhausted thumps. Don’t
forget to feed it, make

a note to refill its bowl
and leave yourself a voice mail
saying read the note.

Your memory will
become muscular according to
how you play with it,

huge haunches
but weak knees, or long-limbed
and limping. You will

always injure it
by what you do. There are
consequences for how

you call to it and
reward it, how and why
you scold it, bad

memory, horrible
memory. It isn’t what it used
to be, nimble, limber,

a climber. You have
been training it to dance alongside
you without any rest.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Going Through

Going Through

Through, and into
what. Mink and fox
coats, hinterland.

If it’s too dark
to see, your hands
will become your eyes,

reaching into the air
ahead of you, reporting
back to your brain

what is coming. Who
is in the wardrobe
with you, maybe

a dog, a guide,
a witch, or a ghost,
clothed in the sheets

that used to stretch
across your childhood
bed, white with

pale blue blossoms,
blinking at you
through the eyelets.

You are going through
this so you can learn
where it leads,

where you are leading
yourself. You are.
You make your way,

we say, just as we
stage our dreams,
enact and watch them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Your Thoughts on This

Your Thoughts on This

What are you going to wear,
I ask, to determine what I should
wear. You wear a dress, and so
will I. There is solidarity in having
to make our individual choices.
Even flats or heels. Even jacket
or no jacket. My decision rolls
more smoothly if I borrow a bit
of your momentum. I’ll have it
back to you by tomorrow. You,
selecting the best recipe for soup,
omitting garlic and adding cayenne,
knowing how much to prepare
because you have decreed it.
How close together should the
letters be. Do you throw away
food you’ve let go bad, your
rotten good intentions. How many
scoops of coffee and how much
water, gasoline in the car today
or tomorrow, the Check Engine
light investigated or unchecked.

Monday, November 28, 2011



The math after.
A fallout of numbers,

numerical confetti
where the piƱata

once dangled.
The carcass of

a machine, a body,
either too old or

newfangled to
disappear in

usefulness. Thing
that lingers,

that loiters.
The black bags

of trash that
lollygag in alleys

and in bins,
dark and shiny

skins holding in
what we abandon.

All is disposable,
except for that which

persists. The echo
unhinged from

the sound that
threw it. The part

of the party when
it has ended

and the guests
have returned home,

when they slouch on
their couches in

crumpled suits and
gowns before sleeping.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Stay Still

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Act As If

Act As If

Enough pretending, and you can
convince the self.
We learn this early, as kids in
the back seat
of the car, parents up front, radio
releasing into the car
parts of the world that have nothing
to do with you
yet. Are they sleeping, one of them
asks, your mother,
and turns to look at you and your
sister, heads flung
back against the seat, eyes closed
as if in sleep but not
sleeping. A few miles more, and
you buy it. You wake
to the seat belt unbuckling, retracting.
To feel happier, smile.
When they ask you in the interview,
Even though you have
no experience in this area, you are
confident you could
excel in this position, You say, Yes,
of course, conjure up
certainty in your diction and tone,
Strong voice for strength. A lie,
even, the thing
we want to be real, chanted,
for instance, I am
not scared of the dark basement,
the spidery, decaying
basement. After all, you live so well
above it every day,
because the basement goes away when
you are not in it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011



The car gulps the gasoline
by itself. The nozzle and hose
hang from the tank’s mouth
like a cigarette. A loud click
from the handle, and the black hose
twitches. Full. $26.81. My hand
back on the handle, depressing
the trigger in short bursts. $26.89.
$26.98. I’m trying for an even number,
whole, no pennies swimming from
my bank account to the Shell station,
just invisible bills. This is the game
we keep engaging in, Finding
a Good Stopping Point by
Seeing Clues in the Universe.
We imagine a cohesive creature
gazing at us across the ping pong
table, eyebrows raised to see
if we are ready for what it will
bat toward us. The waiter,
that’s us, twisting the top
of the pepper grinder like a
door knob, black dust covering
our guest’s dish like soot.
Tell me when, that’s us,
grinding, waiting. Say when.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011



Gray is the new black.
Thirty is the new twenty.

Clamp a wrench around
what you perceive, and turn.

Reality wobbles and rolls
on its side, so we can pat

its belly. What is under
the thing you think is true.

What else could it be.
How can you use it again.

Shove dirt into a rain boot
and then pansies. Drill

a hole through a Jack Daniel’s
bottle, and you have half

a lamp. Stay still, we ask
our things, while we repurpose

them. What we mean is stay,
still, we need a little longer.

Monday, November 21, 2011



Permanent marker
might as well be chalk.
It cannot be scrubbed off,
but the wall on which
you draw can be
demolished beneath
your hand, can be
bulldozed. How do
we decide what is more
readily disposable, and
what to keep using.
The perfect plastic vessel
housing hand soap
empties, and is thrown
into the blue bin
with the other bottles
and jars that hold nothing.
To mean anything,
a container must store
a visible substance.
We destroy them, melt them
all together, make them
into new versions
of what they were already,
fill them again.
Bottomless refills, some
restaurants promise.
For as long as you
exist, and so do they,
they will bring you soda
in clear red cups.
There is plenty of sugar
and water, and carbon
with which to manufacture
tiny bubbles cupping air.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Art: Collaboration with Jessica Bell

I have been unbelievably excited to share this project with you. As you know, my poems are ignited by looking at visual art. I look at it, and examine my own reactions--what is it about this piece that speaks to me? Why?

I'm thrilled to let you know that I've been working with artist Jessica Bell in the reverse of this process; I shared work with her that speaks to what she does as an artist, and she has created something visual in response to my poem.

If you don't know Jessica's art, I'm happy to introduce you to it (I know you'll love it). Her works remind me of maps, the sky, aerial views of land. When I look at her pieces (whether textile, paint, paper, or photography), I think of icebergs, stones, the ocean, and constellations.

Appropriately, Jessica chose to work with a poem of mine about the stars--"Apparent Magnitude." Just as my poems are not simply descriptions, her art is not a literal translation of this poem. Our work is a dialogue about proximity, language, and finding order in this unraveling world. I'm crazy about what she made, and hope you are, too. In the future, there may be more of these...

Here's the piece she created, and the larger piece in which she included the text of the poem (click the images to see them more closely).

Creative Commons License
Apparent Magnitude by Hannah Stephenson and Jessica Bell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sometimes, Always, Never

Sometimes, Always, Never

Repeat this to remember how
to decipher the buttons on a jacket:
sometimes, always, never.

Do up that middle button, quick,
and get your hands off the last one.
Didn’t you hear yourself.

Existence is mighty confusing.
The rules help. A bit. I before E,
we chant, except for the times

when I does not fall before E.
Rules electrify the exceptions,
the experiences that slip between

what we expect and what arises.
Man walking down the street
with a lady stands nearest to the road,

but what if there are two ladies,
or none. Two men. One man
and three ladies. And why, too,

what protection does this offer
women. Liquor before beer,
or the reverse. Red sky at night, then what,

the morning. Count the seconds
after the lightning. Listen as
your numbers call forth the thunder.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Truth Serum

Truth Serum

Can you name the key
lunging into your locks.
Which truth serum
persuades you to talk,

and what aftertaste glows
in the ceiling of your throat.
Which room would you
talk to me in. What code.

What is the difference
between speech and song.
Do you notice your cadence
wandering around along

the edges of melody.
How are you training,
based on the scenes
you keep recreating

and painting. Which
dark art is your specialty.
There is always one,
at least, a jagged tendency

that you drag out to
play with. Have you seen
what you are trying to teach
yourself through routine.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Discount Adult Video Superstore

Adult videos for sale. Tons of them.
Adult means dirty here. Sexually explicit.

Not evil, necessarily. Your brainstem
might just have a craving for the illicit

but reasonably priced. Feed me, Seymour,
feed me, your inner Venus fly trap growls.

Overflowing stacks and shelves. A superstore,
Smutmart, Lustalot, descending into the bowels

of the planet, an upside-down skyscraper,
thirty floors below ground, each more strange

that the one above it. Copy machine and stapler
flicks a few floors down, fetishes arranged

with the neatness of a library. Bondage and feet
on 1, food on 2. Any desire you have ever had

materialized on film. Our billboard is indiscreet
so you know what we sell: scantily-clad

and naked bodies, teleporting onto your screen,
into your homes. Why shouldn’t fantasy

be affordable. When times are tough, the obscene
can comfort us. Shop here. Stimulate the economy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Berm

The Berm

If I photographed the trees
on the grassy, leaf-strewn land
holding the highway’s hand,

with my lens, I could block out
the unbeautiful elements. The road,
the black and white billboard

that tells us, in caps, Hell is Real,
the H in Hell filled in with dark red,
a jaunty patch on a varsity jacket.

Three times in the last month
I almost parked the car at the side
of the freeway. In my mind,

I see myself leaving the car,
clambering down the berm, the slick
gravel and grass. Wooly mist

drifts through this patch of trees,
a copse, I think, and see the word
wrestle with its lookalike neighbor:

a corpse. I want to stand in
this fractured meadow, and stare
at the fiery leaves leaving their

perches, flinging their orange
bodies at the green ground. The trees are
not dying, just some of their parts.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Video Poem: Three Contemplate Infinity, by Lesley Jenike

Yippee---my first video poem using another poet's work!

I'm excited to share this with you. The poem is "Three Contemplate Infinity," by the brilliant Lesley Jenike. I love how skillfully disorienting this poem is--and the book that it comes from, Ghost of Fashion (quite possibly the best title ever), is equally enthralling.

For more about Lesley Jenike, click here. Or click here to learn about her book (and how to buy a copy).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

There, There

There, There

There, there,
we say to a crying person,
touch them
twice, on the arm, flat palm.
location is comforting, and
and the knowledge that while
can come from you, it is not
within you. Soothing someone
is a form
of exorcism, shooing away pain
so the person
can become themselves to us
People are places, we admit
once for them, once for us.
We want
this wailing to roll to a stop.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No Problem

No Problem

To get the jam on the bread
without a knife, use the back
of a spoon. A pencil, and gravity.
Hell, a finger. A screwdriver.
What couldn’t you use, really.
Here is a stack of solutions
offering themselves up to you
every moment. What tools
swirl around you, a school
of glowing fish, of clues.
First we learn to count, and
then to add. Because that is
how life works, one thing,
and another, and another,
until something slips away
or multiplies or splits.
What are you working on
over there. Which problem
are you on. I think we’re
doing this right. Aren’t we.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011



Methodical, melodic, or
madness, haphazardness.

Wildness can be a risk,
haphazardous. With blades,

or construction, or driving.
Any heavy machinery

calls for care, forethought,
a level sense of what goes

where. But what joy can
caution bring us, some

warm, furry sensation
unfurling gradually.

We borrow from both,
illogically. How I leave

the house, for example,
hurricane of keys and

sheets of paper, the feeling
that I am forgetting fifty

things. Or the bout of
flossing that occurs before

the dentist, training my gums
to bleed less as evidence

of splendid dental hygiene.
What is the difference between

chaos and order, anyway.
Where would we look

to measure this. The before
or after. Where do those start.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Experiment in Text: Show Me Your Chords

Wednesday, November 2, 2011



Every room is full,
even the empty ones.

A house is brewed
from plans. Here is

your master, says
the realtor to the

twenty-three year
olds, leading them

through one room
to the bathroom

without the bathtub,
his and hers sinks,

though, so they can
each have a drain

to clear the frothy
toothpaste from their

mouths. No one
had ever lived in

the apartment, and
yet, with confidence,

the realtors knows
what goes where.

Future home of
more homes, like

the sign says,
not a dug-up lot

but an intended site,
future home of

some yet-unnamed
place, to be announced

as soon as a pencil
says it to the blueprints,

claiming this land
with certainty

as if uncovering
a name already planted

within the plans and
waiting to be called on.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


A Fantasy

Somewhere, a woman wakes up
in a bed that she fills half of.

Her white dog hops onto the bed,
the white sheets and comforter

and coverlet, and its gold ID tag
delicately clinks against the collar.

The dog smells like pancake batter.
Its paws are white and clean.

There is no dog hair on any blanket,
nor on the carpet or hardwood floors.

The house offers her a pink bathrobe
on a silver finger poked through

the bathroom door. Here, take this,
her house is empty again, no sign

of dog or human, the kitchen counter
has never been used, the knives

sparkle in their wooden slots, undulled.
Her husband is planning a surprise

for her, that is why he left so early.
We know it, but she doesn’t.

The morning is dark and full of possibility.
She could do anything today,

especially in her home, she could wear
any of her dresses or flowing blouses

and never leave the house, she is so
satiated. When she opens the door

to let the dog into the yard, we see
it has just snowed, the sky glows blue

and we pan back for her reaction to
the silver car in the driveway, big bow,

red, satin, plopped on top, dog yipping
for her to notice the gift, the keys

jammed into the ignition, a silver heart
dangling from them like the pendulum

on a grandfather clock, like the heavy
silver heart that he gave her last year

to string around her throat, so that he
can see how his choices for her please her.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Thing About

The Thing About

The thing about
saying the thing
about any thing

is it obscures.
All sense-making
does, except

those examples
I will exclude
here. Ignore

what you do
not need, sure,
to embrace

the singled-out
thing about
the thing.

The eye gets
grabbed when
it looks, gets

fondled, felt up,
falls in love
with one facet,

one sparkly patch
from the oceanic
fields of things

that exist, that
were formed
before you saw

them, long before
your eyes were
born. The birches

on one street,
and ridged

as unpeeled
carrots, or the
funny foliage

before that
freeway exit,
high ends and

vines folded over
the center, like
fingers raised

in praise of
heavy metal,
a fist with horns,

a tailless Y in
sign language.
The thing about

the more you
notice, the more

you look, and the
more you look
the more you

will have to
overlook, as you
have already.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Audio: With Love

This week, I had the itch to record some audio. So here's "With Love" for you, a poem I wrote last fall.

A while ago, I looked myself up at Klout, which supposedly measures your social media influence. It points out who you interact with most via social media, and mentions topics that you are supposedly influential about. It used to say that I was influential about "neurosis," "wine," "helium," and "mattress." Somewhat true (well, not the helium bit), I suppose, though I'm quite happy that the currently listed topics are a little more aligned with my actual interests (the site now mentions that I'm allegedly influential about "spoken word," "authors," "disorders," and still, "helium").

Some of my poems definitely have a neurotic tone to them. I don't know if it's necessarily a bad thing--I like to think that while they might sound a bit strange/obsessive, they are also playful and giddy (Woody Allen meets Peewee Herman). Is neurotic always negative, do you think? How would you characterize your writing voice?

Hope you enjoy the (very neurotic!) "With Love."
With Love by The Storialist

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We Look for Migration

We Look for Migration

For months now,
I notice what seem

to be to leaves floating
and flapping in the air

over the freeway, above
my windshield and car.

Butterflies. Buttery
yellow and orange,

mottled brown.
I see them and drive

beneath them,
their small, fervent

thrashing. Winged
things always look

like they are leaving.
Above the butterflies,

clusters of black birds.
For months, I’ve read

the scattered tea leaves
of their flight as departure.

Where we look for
migration, we will see

migration. If we anticipate
what we think we know

is coming, we won’t be
as startled by what it

brings, the evening where
the afternoon once was.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Analytical Distance

Analytical Distance

Step back to see
what you thought you were seeing
clearly. Amidst
is a mist. Fetch the edges instead
of the center,
the yellowing silver maple, the ends
of its leaves
serrated like paper snowflakes,
the gray sky
behind all of this, and us, the year
and decade
we belong to. The century and those
adjacent to it.
The hemisphere, and the planet.
To learn more,
put your life on a table. Take your
hands away,
let it clatter against the table until
it stills. It will,
and then you can look. Crawl around.
Install yourself
in a high corner, between the ceiling
and the wall
where a waiting room television goes
and watch.
The first thing you feel. Notice it,
and walk
through it, backward, pointing out
what you have
been trying to tell yourself for years.
Keep moving
with the surety of a student tour guide
coaxing anxious
families through a college campus,
Here is the library
and the dining hall, and next, the best
dorm, the biggest
and most popular, evening quiet hours
gently enforced
and, of course, a real sense of community.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Experiments in Text: This Unearthly Pace

Thursday, October 20, 2011



Throw it away,
we say, but where
does this directive
lead. Where is
away. We know it
suggests distance
and removal, that
the thrown thing
is no longer visible
or retrievable.
In theory, it is gone
for good, forever
or for a very long
time. We trust
it will biodegrade
into nothing, into
matter smashed up
or reabsorbed into
the air or dirt.
We believe in
the dumpster.
We assume it takes
our trash from us
and does away
with it, undoes
what we don’t
have room for in
our homes, what
we refuse to
claim or tend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Great Plains

Great Plains

Every continent has its flatlands,
its great plains. Planned plain land,

green with grass or grain, without
close-set trees or oceans. Unmown

meadows, flat and vast. The veldt,
wide yellow belt of wildness. Fever

country, fields in which thousands
of people would fit, if they lived

nearby. Heath, moorland, pasture,
outback, tundra. Windy, hindered

lands, places in which to graze and
wander, to walk through while

wondering, Where should I go
so the wind can reach through me,

so I can rifle through life while
living it. Prairies help us hear

the quietness hatching within
us, help us feed our prayeries.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Freshening Up

Freshening Up

They put the new road
right on top of the old one,

spill blacktop on the street
and roll it smooth as if it

were paint, shiny, black.
Trouble is, in places we

can see the previous lane
markers, blacked out but

slightly raised from the road
like goosebumps or hives.

The fresh white paint insists
we drive between its lines,

but the way we used to drive
along this street still reaches

out to guide us. The road
can erase only so much of

itself. Even the newest batch
of drivers will notice how uneven

the road’s skin is, as their cars
push into the new road and

the roads living beneath it,
blacktop, brick, and dirt.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Experiments in Text: Precious Moments

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How You Can Tell It’s a Playground

How You Can Tell It’s a Playground

Manmade archipelago, a low, clustered
city of materials, red plastic and steel.
Green turtle sandbox, sand in the shell.

Yellow seesaw with red seats. Slide
with bumps molded into it, an ode to
warped journeys, and the black rubber pail

of a baby swing dangling from two lengths
of chain, each clutching the seat with a free
hand. Mulch, and mulch dug out where

feet go, under the tire swing, at the base
of the slide where the kids collide with
the ground. Fence around it, and a gate

that you can unlatch and push to open.
Paved path nearby, leading there or through,
and a school that can be walked to, or

a daycare. Thick-skinned structures that
want to roughhouse, gently. You can fall
here, and be hurt only a little, a knee

bloodied or bruised beneath unbroken denim,
palmfuls of splintered mulch. Jump. Climb.
Run. We’ll help with the consequences.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Precious Moments

Precious Moments

The moony eyes of Precious Moments figurines
ogle the swelling crowd on the other side
of the glass. From the neck down, the shop

is peachy. The Royal Doulton ladies simper on
their glass shelves, the hems of their gowns
swirling around slim ankles. The fat faces

on the jugs leer with customary drunkenness,
and ceramic puppies pause from gnawing
at your slipper, the very picture of adorable

guilt. But the red neon sign, Alan’s Collectibles,
and everything above it is on fire. Flames
chew through the green awning and roof

patiently, and shreds of the blackened canvas
drift down like foliage. Framing the fire,
but unaffected by it, the orange and red

leaves of neighboring trees, and, of course, people,
standing still to watch the fire, holding out
cell phones like torches, pointing them up.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011



Do it A.S.A.P., ASAP,
as soon as possible,
or A.S.A.H.P., as soon
as humanly possible,
start completing this task
while I am speaking to you.
Do it A.S.A.P., A-sap, ace-app,
eight-zap. The sooner,
the better, even now would
be too late, but acceptable.
Act now. I don’t mean to
panic you, but you have
three minutes starting now.
Hurry up, but get it right,
to show you how serious
I am I have omitted most
of the letters. Let your
eyes or ears scan the words
for a corresponding meaning
that beeps into being
in the cash register of your
mind. Speaking only slows
us down, the process, so
listen faster. Hurry up,
hurry the hell up, the hell
of being told there is no
time to respond so do it
now, do it now, with every
breath you take you could
be finishing this task.
What are you waiting for.
Really, I’m asking you,
what thing do you need
to start. Haven’t you already
started just by picturing it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Structurally Sound

Structurally Sound

How softly should beginnings begin
so they mark a shift in sound, yet
do not startle you away, listener.
First silence, then the first stirrings
of intended noise. Fingers lifting to
strings, oxygen sucked into a mouth,
numbers. One two three, two two three,
the song is here. We can step into it,
inhabit it, its voice feels familiar.
The chords, the walls. The melody,
the light, and harmonies for windows.
We want to live inside of it, to bask
in sound waves. If we can stay here,
we will never die, will never not know
that plain objects possess magic
that we activate, the silver stapler,
the glossy calendar, the brick building
against the gray sky, these can shimmer
with longing when we look at them
with the right eyes. Generosity, yours,
calls out, and every sound comes
inching out to greet you, the tambourine
and the hands that hold and collide
with it, the obedient guitar strings.
The chorus, a succession of beds
for you to choose from and climb
into. You know this will end, that
minutes will paddle faster and faster,
the song will retreat as you chase it,
transpose itself into a higher key,
beatific. The gospel choir, an aerial
view of what you will soon return to
as it approaches. See how natural
endings are, the outro croons,
as a whole house scuttles away,
dragging the block behind it
like a billowing, sparkling nebula.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Video: Light House

I'm very happy to share with you this video poem for "Light House."

The footage was shot at Rooms to Let II, a temporary art space created and curated by Melissa Vogley Woods. Melissa selected artists to create installations in each room of a house, and showed the amazing creations last Saturday night. Lucky for all of us in Columbus: Rooms to Let is holding a closing reception tonight, from 4-7 PM(click the link for location and details).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Do Not Take This Medicine

Do Not Take This Medicine

If you are pregnant, or are actively seeking
pregnancy, or are even picturing
yourself as a pregnant person, the yellow dress
with the empire waist you could still
wear, all the extra fabric gathered up when
you wear it now.

If you are prone to depression and feelings
of loneliness. To not deleting
voice mail. To forgetting how old you are.

If you also take other medicine, or if you are
allergic to chocolate, or oxygen.

On an empty stomach. Because we’ll know
if you’ve eaten. We designed
this pill to self-destruct if, when it tumbles
down your throat, it ricochets
around the lining of your stomach, unable
to rest and sink in.

From strangers. From doctors who are acting
a little strange, shaky hands
scratching tree branches onto prescription pads.

If you cannot say how sick you are. If you
cannot rate your pain.

If you have a heart murmur, or if your heart
murmurs to you what it wants
or doesn’t want. Ask your doctor if your
heart is healthy enough for
what you are feeding it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Narrowing It Down

Narrowing It Down

In a room full of black cats,
I know I could find mine,
but how long would it take me.

I know her face, her mouth,
her extra toes in front
so she seems to be wearing

oven mitts. This will never
happen, me locked in
a room with forty other cats,

the floor teeming with shiny,
dark creatures, some
authority demanding I select

and retrieve my animal from
the flock. I test myself,
hypothetically. How would

I respond in this fantasy, after
the panic, the ground
roiling around me with black fur

and claws, limbs and tails
and teeth, yellow and
green eyes dotting the shadows

like a mess of Christmas lights
plugged in, fizzing
light. Narrow it down, I coach

myself in the imagined chaos,
and then speak to them
to see how they behave. Let

them bite you. I will find her
eventually, as long as
I chant, Take as long as you need.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011



E-Z Keyz and Lox. E-Z Cleaners.
Hertz Carz: Let Yourz Be Ourz.

Why. Z’s in for S’s are repulsive,
twisted the wrong way, sticking

to the teeth as they buzz out the
ends of words. The sound is right,

almost, but heavier, scratching up
the voices dragging it out. Visually,

even, it is grotesque. The eye’s
stomach churns at the scissored

version of the word. Easy, those
hills you like to drive through,

the meandering freeway, goldenrod,
green fields, the end of the y dangling

down like a cat’s tail as it sits
on the window sill. E-Z slices

out two vowels, tacks the capital
letters together with a hyphen,

scotch tape. A botched surgery,
suggestive of an eye chart, of

weakening vision, an amputated
alphabet. This is not what we want

from experience, life balled-up
and hollowed out, a one-stop shop

so we can get in and get out, forget.
But ease, we do long for that, and

the acknowledgement that when
things break, parts of us must halt,

must ask strangers for repairs
that happen carefully, gently.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pick Up Sticks

Pick Up Sticks

Baby, I like how you
are assembled, one atom

snapped into another
like tinker toys. Tight genes,

baby. Dominant, too.
Where are my manners,

I suppose I haven’t
learned them yet, or they

haven’t stuck. Your
skin is the color of band-aids,

freshly unwrapped,
you smell like My Little Ponies,

like sugary, pliable
plastic. You could camp out

in my love for you,
because it is in tents. Pillow

forts and night lights.
Sleepovers. You are so fine,

baby, do you know
you are going to be just fine.

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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

No Tree

No Tree

A field next to the freeway.
A treehouse with no tree,

just a pole, seven or so boards
nailed to the pole for stairs.

Who is this birdhouse for,
an only childhouse, a father

for his sonhouse, for his two
girl cousins who like to climb.

No tree now. Most likely, not
even before. Someone owns

this place, the green field,
the hut up there, the view

of cars driving by without
slowing. How does this work,

who does the house belong to.
The man who made it, who is

gone. His boy, whose weight
the ladder can’t hold anymore,

the snow and ice that live with
the house in winter like a virus,

or the field, calling the wood
back to its flat nest, the cool earth.

The Storialist. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.