Four Poems by Hannah Stephenson -The Toast

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I know, I know. I joke all the time about how poetry destroys the lives and innocence of web editors. And yet, when I was emailed a PDF (or, you know, handed a bark-bound copy by a babbling brook by a white-tailed deer) of In the Kettle, the Shriek, I had no choice. I had to let you read some of them.


One day, my heart will stop beating. (not everything is a joke)
–Jimmy Kimmel, in a tweet (@jimmykimmel), January 13, 2012

There will be a world with no you in it,
and it won’t be lopsided here without you.
The people who knew you will also be
gone, and then the people who had been
told about you. A child in each playground
swing, a dog at the end of every leash.
Water will course through the pipes
in the city you no longer live in, in your
home that you are not inside of. The new
inhabitants will hold a pot beneath
the faucet in the kitchen, place the pot
on top of the stove, just as you did.
Some of your objects remain, have
been reassigned. Your guitar is held
by a boy whose mother purchased it
from a resale shop. Your gray pearls
are with a woman flecked with your
genes. Many of your books have
disintegrated. A few of the things
you made still belong to someone
else who looks at them. There are
television shows starring humans who
were born long after you disappeared.
Feathers fill the pillows, and teens
and preteens take the risk of placing
their tongues in each other’s mouths.
Forever, you will never come back.
Ninety-eight or eighty-three over
infinity, it is almost not even a fraction.


Seasonally Affected

The seasons affect us, whether
daylight drains away in the afternoon
or evening. The snow and ice

chase us indoors, slow our steps,
our driving, our blood. We see branches,
bare, as bones. Plants persist

in the winter, but they do not grow.
Evergreen and umber bark instead of pink
or white petals. Shadows bloom

in the tree limbs and thus, some
place inside us. There was once a purpose
for our sadness and fatigue

in winter. We were naked
and cold, or we used to be bears and still
experience the urge to hibernate.

There are many ways to bring
light into your life in the winter. Buy a lamp,
arrange for a mechanical dawn

at your bedside. Tell your cells
that this bulb is the sun transformed into
a potted plant. They may or may not

fall for it. There will always be
darkness in you. What can you build
with it, with your sensitivity.


We Will Judge You Based on Your Wedding

We will judge you based on your wedding,
on what you have designed. How many guests
were you expecting, and how many are present.
What did you do to the ceremony. How did
you renovate it, what did you rip out and what
did you add. What century does your wedding
take place in. Is it full of thines and beloveds,
did you invite any God. Who cries. Do you
engender jealousy. What colors did you swath
your bridesmaids in, what necklines. How
symmetrical is your wedding party. Where are
the tall people. Did you pin the flowers
to each groomsman’s chest, do the petals
echo the girls’ dresses and tablecloths and
place cards. Have you obeyed every tradition
pressed into your hands. Did you give your lipstick
to the maid of honor. Have you asked her
to lift your skirts in the bathroom. When you kiss
your husband, is it tasteful. Do your mouths convey
to your guests how you burn for each other.
Did you tie each little package of bubbles
with ribbon, does each guest breathe across
you when you leave for the reception, a baptism.
Are there butterflies. Or doves. Are they still alive
and able to fly. Who did you seat together.
Is everyone accounted for. Who is here alone,
have you sat them together. Does your photographer
give you enough feedback so your poses look natural.
What memories does the camera create. Will you
smash cake in the face of your partner. Does he know,
will he recoil or laugh and lick his lips. How do
you feel about everyone watching you eat, dance.
They can make you kiss at any time. Will you
grow tired of it. Will you graciously comply.
What song will you select to represent every
emotion coursing through you, will it cause
your guests to run onto the dance floor, cheering.
You are responsible for all of this, your choices
splashed across the reception hall and pouring
out of the speakers. We are submerged in them.
What kind of a woman are you. This is your day.


I Could Care Less

I could care less,
I could,
but instead, I care
so much,
so phenomenally.
It happens
when we look, this
range-sized adoration
welling up
inside us in response
to all that
is present alongside
us, and all
that existed before
the human
thumb squeezed
the top of
the common era’s
The seven holes in our
heads help
us to take in what we
can of the
ever-altering wilderness
here for us,
with us. How is this not

Hannah Stephenson is a poet, editor, and instructor living in Columbus, Ohio (where she also runs a monthly literary event series called Paging Columbus). Her poems have appeared recently in The Huffington Post, Hobart, Contrary, MAYDAY, and The Nervous Breakdown; her collection, In the Kettle, the Shriek, is now available from Gold Wake Press. You can visit her online at The Storialist.

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