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February 20, 2013 | Poetry

Three Poems

Hannah Stephenson

Three Poems photo

Early Work

Self-portrait as beaded curtain,
as Red Sea beginning to lift

from the earth, as an ice cube
slides from the tray when you

twist it. Self-portrait with veil,
with scarf, with beekeeper’s mask.

Self-portrait as box of bees,
as drawer heavy with honey.

Self-portrait with the stinger
of a bee inside me somewhere,

and a dead bee at my feet.
Self-portrait as department store

janitor, self-portrait with rolling
trashcan and push broom.

Self-portrait as fogged up car.
Self-portrait as Home Depot

parking lot at 3 AM, no cars,
no people. Self-portrait with

grocery cart with someone else’s
left behind list. Self-portrait as

grocery list, as sheet of stamps,
as fraudulent activity on your

credit card. Self-portrait with
self-portrait as potted orchid.


If You Answered Mostly True

A sense of longing permeates your life. (True or False)
A room of strangers is exciting to you, not scary. (True or False)
You often struggle with following precise directions. (True or False)
You follow instructions, but sometimes, if they are too rigid, you feel yourself rebelling. (True or False)
What other people think of you matters to you. (True or False)
If someone shows discomfort, it is your job to help them become comfortable. (True or False)
If you learn how every person takes their coffee, you are meaningful. (True or False)
When you remember the letter you once left in a boy’s car, you are embarrassed. (True or False)
Your future self always blushes at the earnestness of your present self. (True or False)
Frequently, there is a lot of smiling happening on your face. (True or False)
You can speak to many different people, known and unknown, at once. (True or False)
Before doing things you sometimes say Let’s do this. (True or False)
Deprivation and delay are useful tools for heightening pleasure. (True or False)
You like to know what kind of a person other people think they are. (True or False)
When someone is upset with you, you writhe inside. (True or False)
If you saw a bear, you could remain calm. (True or False)
If you saw a snake, you could remain calm. (True or False)
You feel that you could reason with an evil villain in a movie, especially if he has a scar or an eyepatch. (True or False)
Sometimes, you feel bad for the bad guy. (True or False)
You find yourself acting extra polite around uniformed authority figures. (True or False)
No one you know is dying. (True or False)
Everyone you know is dying. (True or False)
If an animal is in a movie, even a bird, even a tarantula, you worry about if it is going to be ok, in the movie and in real life. (True or False)
You are good at falling down in public. (True or False)
When you are walking, periodically you remind yourself you are walking. (True or False)
Multiple choice tests are tricky for you because you are not given facial expressions or context or motives. (True or False)
When someone asks you Are you sure, you are less sure. (True or False)
It is our job to make time significant. (True or False)
Time is true because we agree that it is. (True or False)
Even when things are true or false, they are true and false. (True or False)

Girls on Beds

Girls on their beds
or before their mirrors,

standing over a lamp
to turn their eyes to glass

for the imaginary
one who can see them now.

Never have I ever,
girls, taken a bed sheet

from the bed,
wrapped my body with it

and ambled through
the house, my hair tumbling

over one eye,
moonlight gazing at me

through a Vaseline-
covered lens. The moon does

not make beams.
You will never see yourself

as your lover does.
You can’t choose which part

of you they will
reach for first in the dark.


image: Caleb Curtiss