Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Blowing on Ice Cream

Blowing on Ice Cream

In a few minutes,
you will wish that
the soup you are
blowing on now
were warmer. Where
is that perfect
experience, and
why do we expect
to discover it,
the triple scoop
ice cream cone
not leaking
through the
napkin, along
your palm and
wrist, that hot
tomato soup
coddling the
the roof of your
mouth like
bathwater does
your body,
only endlessly.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We Are Here for You

We Are Here for You

We are the yellow field
that looks yellower
in gray autumn.

We are the root beer
barrels that the rolled
hay bales remind

you of. We are your
mother’s hands
painting the bread

dough with egg white.
We are the sheen
and the warmth

and the fragrance of
the bread. We are
every whale who

swam alongside your
boat in the ocean,
we are the terriers

and black labs who
burrowed beneath
the fence in the yard

and came home when
you called. We are all
the apples within

the orchard, growing
or fallen. We are
the warmth under

the down blanket that
settles over you, and
the light in the morning

that tells you to come look
at it, and the strength in
your legs when you stand.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Painting Speaks to You

The Painting Speaks to You

Thank you for coming
tonight to watch the kids,

there’s money for pizza
in the kitchen, bedtime

is 10:30, don’t let them
just wet their toothbrushes

to pretend they’ve brushed,
please watch them brush,

what else am I forgetting,
I want to make sure you

know everything you need
to so that you’re all safe

and happy, so that you
all grow up and feel at least

three versions of love.
I wish I didn’t have to

leave, but since I do, know
how much you mean to me,

and remember to wear gloves,
and go to the dentist, and say

thank you to your teachers and
be kind to those who are strange

or in pain, for once you were
or will be strange in a land

unfamiliar to you. There is
so much to say in limited

space, you’ll need to say
these things to your children

also, and to the sitters looking
after your children that you must

speak to about the children
they are caring for, tonight

or in fifty years or in
a thousand years.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

Currently reading/enjoying/watching....

This page about the star life cycle from NASA. This helped me write a poem last week, "Novae," but I keep returning to read more.

This poem, “Made for TV,” by Kathleen Kirk (on StorySouth).

Also this poem, “Breakfast for Supper,” by Christine Stewart-Nunez.

This interview with artist Mary Carlson on Bomb’s blog. Carlson makes some fabulously weird sculptures (check out her Saints and Demons work--WOW!), but I especially love her porcelain Flowers.

And this new process video from Robert Josiah Bingaman (I wrote about his process videos and gorgeous work before). It spawned an interesting conversation I had on Twitter with a few other artists and creative folk....I was asking them a question about poems, which I’ll now ask you. Upon watching this video, I was struck by how many hours (196!!) went into this painting, how many months, and how many layers. I loved watching Bingaman’s underpainting, and how that shaped the final image as we see it.

I was wondering--is there some sort of underwork present within all pieces of art, whether or not it is visible? I’ve never spent even more than 5 hours on an individual poem (more on my collection, now that I think of it---many hours on organizing/arranging, and many more to come), but I wonder if some of the energy from the first images/words on the page survives editing.

What do you think? Is there “underwork” in what you create? And what are you reading/enjoying?

Thursday, October 25, 2012



If I am your lifeguard
will you be my lifeguard,
one of us in the water,
one in the chair. Which
would you like me to be,
the one eating a soft pretzel,
or the one sleeping on a
pink towel with a green palm
tree sewn onto it. The one
with her feet in the pool,
sitting on the steps, or the
one in line for the high dive.
I keep thinking there’s enough
time for me to be all of them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rounding Third

Rounding Third

Touch anything, and scuff it,
either the thing or your finger.

The best sponges work not by
cleaning, but through abrasion,

the outer layers of a wall and
a smudge lifted off. Even if

I listen to all of my music
at the same volume, even if

all the songs have the same
voice and words, fall is still

rounding third and leaving,
winter waits, and after it,

spring, and summer, and
another and another fall,

heading home. The words
we are taught first tell us

the moving pieces of our
world: we count up to ten,

sing the letters, learn colors,
shapes, animals, seasons.

What sound does the dog
make. What falls from the sky

in the winter when it’s cold.
We can learn what to expect.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The View

The View

Through looking,
we try to prolong
pleasure, clamping
eyes onto landscape,
say, as we would flip
down the metal latches
sealing a guitar case.

What’s farthest away
fades, and is most
beautiful. Mountains
painted in watercolor
on a tarp, tissue paper
ocean that doesn’t seem
to slosh around, not
from back here.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Video: Seasonally Affected (Revisited)

Happy Friday, everyone! Isn't it?


I wanted to share with you a short video from the last Paging Columbus event I hosted (the theme was "Hello Darkness, My Old Friend). I decided to read "Seasonally Affected," the first poem I ever made a video with (and boy, was it low-tech---I carried my laptop down the street in the snow for that one! And look how long my hairs were!).

This video is nothing fancy (and I got myself in profile, mostly, based on where I put the tripod--I didn't check out where to stand beforehand!), but I wanted to share it anyway. The three readers that night (Jennifer Hambrick, Nathan Moore, and Kelly Kathleen Ferguson) were just'll be able to watch their footage in the next few days, as I finish editing their videos.

A big thank you to everyone who read my poems this week! Hope your weekend brings you more of what you enjoy most.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Dearest Future Humans,

My Dearest Future Humans,

I think of you now
as I watch a copy
of my apartment building
rising where there once
was nothing, a dirt lot
that must once have been
something else, the ground
just doesn’t grow bald
and flat and level.

I think of you, Future Ones,
Pre-Ghosts, in a town hall meeting:
slow ceiling fans, a podium,
a roomful of distressed parents
not even a twinkle in your
parents’ parents’ eyes yet.

What are we going to do about
that old Liberty Lane complex
you are asking, about our just now
being-built building. It’s time to rip
that hazard down, been abandoned
now for so many years.

I’m trusting you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Windows Make Shadows

Windows Make Shadows

Windows make shadows
of windows and shadows

of the rooms they belong
to. The two cats belong

to their window, directly
across the street, directly

at eye level with me while
I put on my sweater. While

I feed one arm into a sleeve,
they watch. I dangle the sleeve,

four yellow eyes swivel
in the dark, dart and swivel,

billiard balls with black cores.
No human home, apple cores

and lipstick-spotted coffee cup
and fitted sheet refusing to cup

the corner of the mattress. No
lady over there, just here, no

figure in the mirror, just this body,
and the mirror’s slouching body.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Not On My Watch

Not On My Watch

Between one sound and the next sound
is also a sound, as a forest is tree,
air, tree, light, air, plant, fog, tree,
tree, tree, air, tree, tree, air, air.
We know what nothing looks like,
we think, staring at air, dust, cobwebs,
the edges of the masks of our faces
that we peer through, like windows.
No forever in Timeville, not on my
watch, no hand to track infinity,
no infinity without a finite thing
inside it to count.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

Currently reading/watching/enjoying:

This mesmerizing video, “Shutters Shut, ” by the Nederlands Dans Theater. The choreography is set to Gertrude Stein’s “If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso, ” and it is amazing. What a poem looks like (well, what a poem by Stein looks like!). 

This article, “The Most Romantic Story Ever Told,” by Aimee Bender (in the LA Review of Books). Bender discusses fairy tales, and investigates the enduring popularity of Beauty and the Beast. I love her interpretation of why readers/viewers root for the Beast. She explains, “We grow attached to the beast because we love who he is. We love that he is a beast, that he is rough-edged, moody, troubled; kind, connected, and real.”

This awesomely strange poem, “Information Kiosk,” by Jason Bredle (in Anti--). I am also reading his new book, Carnival (from the Akron Series in Poetry). More on that later...

What are you reading/enjoying?

Thursday, October 11, 2012



All I ask is that a bench be placed here
in orbit (I understand there’s no space
anchor yet), near the edge of a serene
black hole, and that, along the back,
right between the sitter’s shoulder blades,
there is a silver plaque, on which, in an
attractive font, is written: In loving memory
of memory, hers and yours, and all thoughts
that have yet to be spilled, spat out, or spun,
and may you experience pockets of reverie
. And if you wouldn’t mind, dear, armrests.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012



Teak is particleboard,
everything is. Contiguous,
cohesive, dense as the contents
of a vacuum bag. You know
how experience can shimmer
when it seems sewn together,
a sequined scarf, shaken,
jingling. How the edges
of memory and observation
reach for one another,
the fiery Red Maple leaves
this afternoon become
the damp leaves you’d gather
in your hands and throw,
the reverberating clatter
of the rake if it scraped
pavement or stone instead
of grass.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Grocery List on the Fridge Is Cave Art

The Grocery List on the Fridge Is Cave Art

and magnet-trapped postcard, height chart

along the door frame, coupon clipped
out for your coffee, your name in script,

almost unrecognizable, on a wedding
invitation. Also art: sofa you’re dreading

replacing, jar of screws and bolts that go
to something, a futon of five years ago,

a flimsy shelf. The blinds you break
a little every day, the teeth you take

more seriously now that some are stained,
the empty phone jacks, the well-maintained

counter with its few pasta sauce spots,
the darkened underside of pans and pots.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Heritage Tree

Heritage Tree

Not the clearing, the woods.
Not the lesser magic of birds

thrown into the air, then gone,
but the 175-year-old Heritage Tree,

the great-great-great grandbaby
squirrel skittering where her ancestors

once skittered. Not the flowers,
but these unmelting candles,

who cannot leave the way they
came in. Oh woods, teach me

how to grow in stillness, how
to be a maker of the dark.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Process Video: Flourless

Happy Multimedia Friday! Time for another process video. This video takes you behind the scenes (OOH! SCANDALOUS!) of my poem "Flourless."

As a new experiment, I've added some "asides" for you--I narrated my thinking process in additional text file for your "pleasure" (more like your added neuroses--my apologies for my scattered brain!).

Process Video (with Asides)--Flourless from Hannah Stephenson on Vimeo.

I've noticed a few changes in how I work, certainly....more certainty and trust that I can write SOMETHING, but less of a plan or strategy going into my writing sessions (for instance, I thought for sure I'd write something rhymed when I wrote this poem, and then I didn't--or recently, I've though, ok, today I want to write a LONG poem, and then I write a little 8-line ditty).

What's new in your process these days? Any changes you're noticing?

Thursday, October 4, 2012



To make food taste better, add
hunger. Add absence.

I want to bake, but I have no
eggs, so I start to type

my ingredients into the search bar:
flour, I write, and up comes

flour sugar butter, before I finish
my list. What if we named

recipes for what they are not,
and we do, sometimes:

flourless cake, no-bake cookies.
The mind sifts back in

the flour, the oven. I can take
my mind off my hunger,

out of my body, trap it in a bowl
in a cabinet. If you want

to make a pie from scratch, home-
made, whole-made, first

you have to invent your hunger,
then you have to hear it,

the pleasure you call into your mind,
flour sugar butter

suspended in beams of light, the future
asking you for life.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Thigh Master

Thigh Master

If you squeeze your thighs together
you can make them smaller. Erosion

of the body, voluntary erosion, carving
out the smaller you, the slim, green shoot

protruding from the garlic clove, running
through its core. While leading me through

a gym, trying to sell me a membership,
the sales rep was stumped. You mean,

you don’t want to lose any weight,

she kept confirming, aghast, like

zero pounds, like no weight at all
Lady, I thought, let’s not plot to banish

my flesh. A body will wander from itself,
ascend, return, and wander off again.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fake Flowers

Fake Flowers

The idea of the flower,
petals cut from creased
polyester, glue dew drops,
flexible stems of green
plastic tapering at the ends,
where, if you nicked
the casing, there would be
wire exposed, waiting
to be twisted up against
the end of another wire,
not to make a bomb,
to make a wreath in honor
of the undying, which no
season calls us to celebrate.
The Storialist. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.