Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ancient Language

Ancient Language

If you stand at the edge of the forest
and stare into it
every tree at the edge will blow a little extra
oxygen toward you

It has been proven
Leaves have admitted it

The pines I have known
have been especially candid

One said
that all breath in this world
is roped together

that breathing is
the most ancient language

Monday, December 30, 2013

Mudpie Bouquet

Mudpie Bouquet

These are the flowers
wait where are those flowers

This pile of snow will become flowers
When you see the fleets of birds leaving

imagine that they are just now returning
I tried it The gladness ran through me

We all know what the flowers are capable of
coaxing out in us

Pretend the snow is flowers
See my gesture as a flower

Where does the dirt end
and the flower begin

Oops we started to adore the dirt
It’s a good problem to have

Friday, December 27, 2013

Bookmarks List//Bedside Table

Currently reading and enjoying...

This beautiful essay, “Teaching My Daughter to Walk,” by Heather Kirn Lanier in The Sun.

This profile on Bryce Dessner (of The National) about knowing, as a creative person, when to ignore advice.

This terrific article, “Temple of Gloom,” by Bryan Curtis in Grantland, on the psychological darkness in Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom. Big thanks to Marcus for sharing this article with me--Temple of Doom is my favorite of the Indiana Jones movies!

This stunning poem, “The Silence Teacher,” by Robert Peake.

Tomorrowland by Joseph Bates and We Over Here Now by Scott Woods. Here’s my write-up on both books.

And you, friends? What books/articles/essays are you sneaking in before the end of the 2013?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Begin Tonight

Begin Tonight

Maybe just start by talking casually
about the stars

Choose one to notice and explain
its light to anyone,
yourself, even

You could say, that one is tinted blue

or, well, starlight is real light

As an amateur stargazer
there is so much you can do to know more

of the sky that I am
jealous of you
of all that you will come to feel

Who cares about a telescope
or a camera

You can begin by walking out into the night

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sap Season

Sap Season

All the love you will ever feel
you have always carried within you

The pellet you think love is

blooms into stone,
into flame, into glass

You fed it when you cried in public
You fed it when you bit down on what you wanted
You fed it when you rattled around and shifted
as a desert shifts
You fed it when you stirred the granulated honey

The tree knows
how to feed every part of itself

When you tap the tree
to drink it
it speaks to you

There is sweetness in you
All the self can do
is melt

Tuesday, December 24, 2013



How numerous the mechanics
and work required
to send the voice

into the world.

We need the greeting
to hold the ear in place.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today,

is this thing on,
I said GOOD MORNING everyone.

Before I tell you the message,
I have to say,

I see you there.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Keeps Me Young

Keeps Me Young

The future is where our eyesight trails off.
We can never see it.

We will never feel the future.
We keep chasing it into the street.

The future doesn’t want to be didactic.
If it let us in, all we’d do is send back

messages. Dear Mom and Dad of my youth,
you did it, you had two daughters

and we are adults. It’s great here, none
of the animals we had are alive, but new cats

come to you, don’t worry. Nothing extra
will prepare you except for everything

you are doing already or you already
did. The future inches away, but only because

it is protective. This is how it taught us
to walk.

That’s it, that’s it, a little farther, it will
catch us even as we

plummet. Dear me of my youth,
you are young every day

before this one, each alive day
you are full of not having lived it all yet.

Friday, December 20, 2013

In Which the Internet Helps Us to Become Better Humans (Potentially)

This week, I was inspired by author and illustrator MariNaomi’s article “It Happened to Me: I Was Sexually Harassed Onstage at a Comic Convention Panel.” This article will have you cringing as she describes her experience. She’s articulate and very honest in this article (as readers, we can’t help but feel frustrated and horrified that she was treated this way, with the added weirdness of being onstage in front of an audience). What I found most inspiring in her article is the way that she ends with questions pointing toward change:

“I feel so ashamed, sad and powerless, but I’m still not sure what I should have done in that situation. Should I have told him to stop? It would have halted the levity of the panel, but would it have halted his misbehavior? If this has happened to me twice, I’m positive that this must happen to others. Why haven’t I heard their stories?”

Right now, there are over 200 comments on the article. Many of them are simply showing sympathy and support. Some are sharing similar situations, or giving suggestions (some of them are really good!).

What’s also interesting is that in her article, MariNaomi does not name the harasser (she mentions that this is not an isolated problem, but an issue for many women in comics [and many industries]). However, after reading the article, the harasser wrote a public apology about his behavior here. MariNaomi accepted the apology (she called it “a nice apology” on Twitter).

This is heartening to me. What seems key is that while this whole thing is happening IN PUBLIC, it prompted private change. This guy’s behavior was obnoxious and unacceptable, and after reading her article, he realized this (apparently) and apologized. He listened to her. I imagine/hope that he must have felt mortified, and that he learned something!

I sometimes worry that the internet is diminishing our ability to empathize. More than ever, we see and hear people voicing ignorance (it’s not that people are more ignorant, just that we have access to more voices, both anonymous and accountable). I have seen people treat people as if they were YouTube videos of themselves. What bothers me is any quick, thoughtless response to another person’s pain or discomfort--dismissing it or laughing at it. We are quick to invalidate the experience of another human, especially when it makes us uncomfortable.

But what we say and do in any facet of our lives--it matters. Our internet life should support our human, in-the-world life. Anytime we say or do anything on the internet, we are, of course, in public. And when we are open about what it feels like inside the weird machines of our minds and bodies, when we are accountable for our words and actions---we can grow. What if our interactions online could help facilitate this? (They can.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Good Night

Good Night

What is the part of us
that insists
It happened that way

And then reads to us from that book
at the shore of sleep

saying, before I let you go
here is a tiny pail and shovel

Find the piece
that could have been altered
Start digging

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

We Look at the Land with Patience

We Look at the Land with Patience

We regard the mountain as we encounter it

This is a lake here
Over there, houses were never built
so there are no houses

This is the only way the land could look

There has been rain
There have been blizzards

If we had binoculars
where would we train them

We have eyes
and those bring this place into you
flour swept from a tabletop with the edge
of a palm

Monday, December 16, 2013

Every Cake a Cobbler

Every Cake a Cobbler

Oh the very strong magic
of what has come together
not effortlessly

A recipe tells you, calmly,
Cream the butter and sugar

In other words, cram these two
substances into one another
and then maybe
you can start to think about
making cake

This is what I mean, beloved
The suites of mismatched furniture
that we wrangle into a home

The dissonance of
grocery story produce displays
in winter

Oh the jigsaw haystack
of thoughts
others will have of you
when you are gone

Here is how you are bound to your home
Here is how you are bound
to your ice floe
Your work is to hold it all
and float

Friday, December 13, 2013

On Creativity: Terry Hermsen

Last week, I interviewed poet, professor (and friend!) Terry Hermsen for the Columbus Alive (you can read that profile here). I first met Terry in 1999, when he was a visiting poet at my high school. As the literary magazine editor and an all-around poetry nerd, I assisted him during the workshops that he led. He gave us such fun exercises (one involved making near-rhymes of multi-syllabic words), and was kind enough to give me feedback on a poem or two.

Now, over a decade later, I’ve so enjoyed re-meeting him. We both teach at Otterbein University, have read together at multiple poetry readings around Columbus, and exchange and discuss poems when we get the chance.

Terry has just returned from Chile, where he was gathering material and inspiration for projects about translation, travel, identity, culture, and poetry. Since the profile I wrote of him is rather brief (although I am pleased with it!), here’s a more extended version of our conversation. He has such fascinating thoughts about what it means to translate, and how place/poetry/history intersect.

Watch Terry's 2012 reading at Paging Columbus (crank the volume!)

My trip was a continuation of a trip I took four years ago, which was at that time, focused on Neruda. He’s sort of the doorway into world poetry for many people...for me, he was my first introduction to a poet I really liked from another culture.

It’s hard to avoid Neruda in Chile. That’s where it all started--in 2007 when I was there for a week. I had his book there with me and I wanted to talk to people, so I asked them what they thought of Neruda.

Last time I went to Chile, in 2009, I tried to teach myself Spanish. I translated a book last time simply to teach myself Spanish. I thought, if I can go through it line by line, and try to see what I can do, that will help me, and then I found I really liked translating. That book is almost finished, but that got me excited to do more translation.

I’ve been taking Spanish classes now...that’s better. I’m only interested in it for the words. Of course I want to talk with people, but it’s more a poetry project to hear how poetry works in another language.

I had college students helping me [on this trip]. We went around the streets of Santiago and interviewed 70 people, and I have 30 more recordings coming in.

[I learned that] you can talk to people about poetry in the streets of Chile...the people we spoke to were really thoughtful about it. We asked them:
  1. What do you think of poetry (on a scale of 1-10) and why?
  2. What poets do you know and like?
  3. What do you think of Neruda (on a scale of 1-10) and why?
  4. Has Chile changed as a country?

That’s my big question. I mean, I’m a stranger...but it’s thought of as a country of poets. But Chile is becoming a bit like the US...it’s economically-savvy, stuffed to the gills with advertising, very Western. It’s car-oriented, mall-oriented...It’s none of my business, but I’m a little worried that a country of poets is becoming less and less so.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

All That Is Uphill Bows to What Is Below It

All That Is Uphill Bows to What Is Below It

In particular

this road and its ferocious curve
bows to the ravine

The guardrail
following the turn

has pried itself away from the road
in the middle of the curve

The metal remembers the car
that collided with it

This morning, in that same spot
another broken car
held in the rail’s broken arm

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Very Few Things Are a Mattress

Very Few Things Are a Mattress

Oh you think you found an edge
with a toe
of a world that has an end
of a time that has an end

No Very few things are a mattress
knuckles of the fitted sheet
hugging its corners

Here is a box I am handing to you
the name of a place
you lived in is written on the side

Even before I picked it up
the bottom flap was open
The ground is strewn with
bricks and parks and an ocean

At least you’ll always have the box

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ear, Nose, and Throat

Ear, Nose, and Throat

Your body is full of flowers
actually the inside of your body is just
one flower

Every thought you have wriggles
along your brain like a worm

Sometimes you tell yourself thoughts
you don’t think
as an experiment

Running feels wonderful
I dread the rain ending
Radishes not chocolate

It’s not an angel and a devil topping each shoulder
but a baby and a parent

Monday, December 9, 2013



The stillness that hangs before you
It is a shower curtain

It is how a year pretends
to just stop

Give me your hand
Give me what you hoped this year would bring
Give me the flowerfield
that abides because you were not here

And then you were
for a time

This is the way in

Friday, December 6, 2013

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

Currently reading/enjoying:

“Temple Dogs,” by Ira Sukrungruang in Pithead Chapel. A touching essay (it does a lot in few words).

Hibernaculum by Sarah E. Colona. More on this later.

Gregory Orr’s How Beautiful the Beloved. A book I am grateful for! Full of wisdom and little happy-making poems. You can find some of these poems over at VQR Online. Here’s one gem:

Human heart

Human heart —
That tender engine.

Love revs it;
Loss stalls it.

What can make it
Go again?

The poem, the poem.


Happy weekend to you, friends!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wintering Over

Wintering Over

To change direction as a bird
changes direction

to love the branch as the air

to devote oneself
to steering through mostly-invisible places

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Is That the Museum

Is That the Museum

A child’s hood
will help them to learn

just a little of the world
at a time

The little girl in the blue snowsuit
being led from the bus
by her grandmother

Is that the museum
the little girl keeps asking
of every white building

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It Is Marvelous

It Is Marvelous

There are still fires
within the galaxy

How lovely the light is at dusk
We can say that

There is a shoulder
in the place on your body you have
been told is a shoulder

It is a real bone

You, beloved,
are a former child

For each year you continue living
something is cast off behind you

Monday, December 2, 2013



What we know, we know
because we are pointing south.

An accident on the northbound side
is not yet an accident
for those heading north.

The one unmoving lane of cars we pass
becomes two, three, a whole half

of the freeway not moving
or knowing as we do
of the side-sleeping truck, the ambulance.

We drive so far that we reach
where cars have only started to slow.

We drive so far that we see
what things were like before the accident.
It gets earlier and earlier.

Cars are driving past us as we drive.
Inside the cars, everyone is singing.
The Storialist. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.