Five Poems

 
Hannah Stephenson

THE RED FERN GROWS

 

It’s like being in love All he wants are dogs

The author tells us how he feels stoned in his

 

reverie over them To earn the fifty dollars

that they cost there are awful things this boy

 

will do This story is about the death

of animals There are dead raccoons inside

 

this story It isn’t cute any of it

Every longing is lined with

 

pain the ache of separation or the slightly wilted

self Look at how he gives himself over

 

How he thrusts the nails into the shiny cans

and how the raccoons reach inside and are caught

 

on the nails What you grab for is going

to hurt you one day This is not an admirable story

 

 

 

LIFE AND LIMB

 

This is a song for the body that crumbles,

that does not fear its own enfeebling.

 

In one life you had a great ass.

There are bones beneath it.

 

This is a song for the mostly-obedient

body. The shaking foot that lifts.

 

Children guard other children walking

to school. Oh, beautiful crossing guards,

 

this is a song for the orange vests flapping

against your small bodies, uninflated

 

life jackets, for the stop signs you hold up

like torches as you wade into the street.

 

This is a song for the body protected,

the body desired, the body melting away.

 

 

 

THE NEARLIES

 

Tonight the part of the No Evil monkeys

will be played by three ceramic frogs

holding up a Welcome sign. This is the

benediction for the five o’clock walk

that sweeps us all to the park, dust pan

buddies. From every encounter that is

possible, so few encounters emerge.

Oh the world is almost-heavy, the nearlies

accumulating and drifting off, the dead

bodies of dandelions dreaming themselves

into the future. The big black poodle

runs into the pond, ignoring its owner

for the water. In the game we play

with time, this anger will be forgotten,

the water, too. We don’t always get to

stay a duckling, duckling.

 

 

 

UNBEARABLE HULK

 

How about a piggyback ride,

everyone asks me. Sure, hop on,

 

I say, hungry for someone to

touch me, even my shoulders,

 

my collar. Be my backpack, and

see how the anvils of my feet

 

gouge the street, as if pavement

were snow, my feet, skis. I knock

 

on a door and knock the top half

in, my friend’s face, shocked

 

where Mr. Ed’s head could go.

You’re the strongest person I know,

 

says everyone. But if I didn’t have

to be, I wouldn’t. I’d trade in

 

all my horsepower for one lover,

the kingdom of my strength for one

 

person to give me their naked body.

But who would want to be fucked

 

into smithereens. Dainty, fragile

flowerbed, please wait for me,

 

one of you. I’m practicing my

caress in the parking garage

 

on cars. This Gentleness Training

might work. I’m trying to be better.

 

 

 

THE GROUNDS

 

Is it Cinderella glass

coffin or Sleeping Beauty glass coffin

or Snow White glass coffin If we could

box her up we would but only to protect

her body from its further failure

There is the falling apart in secret

we will all do A rejoining

There are children dressed as royalty

because it is the end of October

and the skeletons in the trees swing

their limbs exuberantly and freely

This park should come with a warning for what

it wants to dig up Warning Playground

of Mortality ahead Too late You have always

been here walking the grounds It is ok

Both of us are in here All of us are

 About the Writer
Split Lip Press

Hannah Stephenson is a poet, editor & instructor living in Columbus, Ohio (where she also runs a monthly literary event series called Paging Columbus). Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, 32 Poems, Poetry Daily & The Nervous Breakdown; her collection, In the Kettle, the Shriek, is available from Gold Wake Press. You can visit her online at The Storialist.