Ann Stephenson, Part 1

by: Ann Stephenson

Ann Stephenson writes elegies to a world that continues to slip away from her and from us. The Police sang “When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around” in 1980.  In 2015, Stephenson agrees: “your task is to endure/ with more yes less no.”  Whether she’s nodding to childhood classics, Robert Lowell, or lamenting the loss of trees, birds, and even restaurants, she makes the intellectual and sensual effort to engage, or as she puts it “an emptiness took me over and I had to wrestle it to the curb.”

The Commons

Not made of anything
in the sense that a dog run
or the right to turn on red
are not made of anything
I know what space I want to occupy
by space I mean cabin
by cabin I mean future
it is from this paddock that I want to bolt
be horrible for a change
why not

Every misgiving
has its own intelligence
knowing what it is to crack
a bone simply wreck it
both oceans are near me
I press on push back set forth
or swim (a new habit)
I’ve surrendered my high-wire act
bowed out of the tent
it too was unknowable
and while we can no longer enjoy salt together
I understand your position entirely


Lemons and Cherries

In Jackson Square we were close
with the birds who came around
to show off their families
a quick contest for the lead
but it was different ten blocks east
where little apis mellifera’s clan
entered the park inciting a frenzy
over her lineage, while across the street
an elegy to three dozen trees, countless birds
a dozen restaurants all shuttered cut sanded
and swapped for a bank we don’t like ourselves
inside banks or drugstores don’t like the things
we say once inside, one day when picking up a prescription
an emptiness took me over and I had to wrestle it to the curb
this would happen many times in future
occasionally in hardware stores
but never near branches close to a bloom
or birds posturing with even a minimum
of charm I know this to be true


Let’s Go

Before they drop a house on you
you are at the ocean
sent through your phone
your task is to endure
with more yes less no
a lovable banker offered sound advice
he’s been where you are
in the book you love
the kids traveled with the aid of a bedknob
but now you’re grown
mistrustful of apprentice witches
who signify this particular day to be meaningful
meaning what?


Ann Stephenson’s chapbooks include Adventure Club (Insurance Editions) and Wirework (Tent Editions). The Poles (Tent Editions) and Notes on the Interior (Green Zone) are both forthcoming. Some of her poems may be found in The Brooklyn Rail; Gerry Mulligan; The Recluse; Sal Mimeo and Shifter – as well as the anthology Like Musical Instruments: 83 Contemporary American Poets by John Sarsgard and Larry Fagin (Broadstone Books). She received her MFA from Bard College in 2007. She was born and raised in Georgia and lives and works in New York City.

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