Ann Stephenson, Part 2

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 spaceship landed just as Con Ed
Released the steam
People feel honored
When you give them the time of day
Some will miss dinner
Sleepy and happy
To know it was really you
This is the Year of You
Not just a cameo
There will be new shows
And market weeks to attack
Your sister is off to the races too
They’re paying fifty bucks just to breathe
The same smoke
They’re taking you around the block
For a whole new perspective
Even though you’re not into it
You’re the One
You come from a family of Vikings


Sea Wall

Meaning I suppose
Could be my sea wall
Like a belief in worrying
I’ll explain the tide
Tomorrow on the beach
God knows what will be
Lying around mostly
Breaking up the dark horizon
We got to the middle of night with difficulty
More bad habits to come
In giving up the promise of clarity
A corner is where the walls meet
I’m not positive
Cutlery is on the premises
Drugs aren’t good enough

The brakes went out, I rolled
Hit a tree
The next decision made all the difference
But I didn’t feel pressure
Only confusion
Dialing in
Home is trapezoidal
You must leave now
If you plan to get anything done today
Be a good girl
Despite your best efforts

A new addition
Push back
To the beginning of winter
Our driver was attuned to the ice
We owe him our lives
Another day
Go on
I want to decamp
With everyone
A trick mirror
You peer over its frame
Your disapproval is moving
I take it all back
Sit on my hands, steady my mouth

Ignore it
Their demands are hammered, drawn out thinly
You ask where the poets are
The daydream you walked in on
I’ll have that drink now

The poets are out breaking their own records
Come home, you said
To come undone
Sound reduced to speech
But you couldn’t hear


Theater Piece
++++++++++++for Kostas Anagnopoulos

All day scanners were scanning
You washed up and left the talkative building
Arranging the sections
As lavender, security, coffee, breeze
No time for outsiders
Rocks and lots and corrugated boxes
You’ll want to save those
If you enter looking worried, everyone will worry
And rise and knock your block off
Making the children laugh
It’s your show, the contract confirms it
And now there’s plague in the lobby
That takes care of intimacy
Dim the lights
Feed the fire
Buttercups appear in the flames
They won’t last, even with gentle wooing


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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