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.
The Storialist. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.