Ann Stephenson

Ad Hoc Poem

Here’s an overview of their movement
if that’s possible
notice the eglantine endpapers
not the wallflowers

Don’t get on the train
let someone else take the trip
one who can afford it
she’s a queer one

Leaving little to worry about
happy with her inner idea
but it was the station
not the train that moved


Calendar days
I must compare the foreclosures
against the risk
utility or futility
I’m prone to optimism
it’s not a new home I want
just the chance to know the figures were wrong
there were eleven walls and three windows
the suggestion of a brickyard
though it belongs to someone else
I motion my hands like scales
the left for my future darlings
the right a simple rocket ship
its engine for no one
suspicious of schedules or flight plans
I prefer only one mental crisis per hour thank you
like the cat in the rain
lock the front door
disappear proof that each good intention
actually does something good
calm down, imitate sleep
as an enchantment
I’ll play the ghost for a while
and relieve someone from her station
the sensitive ones have a talent
for disturbing a dream
a short distance to float
between bouts of bad weather
until I am Ann again

Notes on the Interior

for Jess Arndt

He hated drinking between meals.
You couldn’t make out
if it was raining. The answer was given
before he cleared the door and ran.
How are you today?
In the terrarium it’s your turn
to get the pests drunk.
Despite your best efforts
a nibbled leaf appeared.
More rain on the cold glass.
That was before I knew your price.
He noticed a red dot but otherwise
no connection to the outside.

We investigated the outskirts.
Multiple mailboxes mounted
on a single pole. I love you.
How sweet of you
to borrow my engine.
This is the big sleep of the day
when we do just one thing
well. Eating dirt when it’s less
of a deficiency, more of a habit.

Did you say medical or magical?
Lunch by the water, salt in your eye.
This was once a hotel for sailors.
The three of us check in.
The fog rolls in.

Drinks now. He makes the Old-Fashioned
like a diamond-cutter, muddling
a paste on the back of the spoon.

A sailor’s ghost says it can only stay
a minute. Where is it going?
Ahoy, matey. Redder than clouds
in the sky, or the clay on my plate.


Lobsters are scarce now
that’s my boat out there
I primed it, did a proper job
but it doesn’t help this picture
relics of all ages under one roof
a carpenter comes in
too hot to notice the signal
that all is not well, I lament
but shake it off, I owe it
to all the hours I put in
someone could steal my chair
if I left it out
there are rules
I shined my shoes
I grew vines for shade
I met the river and hugged it
I paddled upstream
I battled the heat
fanning with my hand
I swatted flies
they’re my machines
an upshot of the times


Winter pear I’m listening
you want the cold back
you’re not from the morning
the ground broke open pulling me under
I am its only inhabitant
I toss in my beans
now for the news
Stanley is winning the battle
lives of my tenderhearted contrarians
I’ve adopted all of them
distinct pleasure, blast of cool air
pushed into the frame
all is well
do not call the guards


Trust all is well at your end
I’m transferring everything over to you
it’s not the first time I’ve been pushed
or broken into my own house
it helps me stay awake
Helen ran after me
Lori picked up the pieces
big things were happening
though I’ve been through bigger
I’m the least of all my worries
free of fluff
no bells or whistles
now it’s you