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.
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.
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.
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
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.