person Annie Stenzel, two poems

Annie Stenzel was born in Illinois, but has lived on both coasts of the U.S. and on other continents at various times in her life. Her book-length collection is The First Home Air After Absence (Big Table Publishing, 2017). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in print and online journals in the U.S. and the U.K., from Allegro to Willawaw Journal with stops at Ambit, Catamaran, Chestnut Review, Gargoyle, Kestrel, Poets Reading the News, The Lake, and Whale Road, among others. She lives within sight of the San Francisco Bay. For more, visit


An evolution

Was there milk in my mouth
when I learned to speak?

My first sentence definitive,
a clear declaration after I was placed
face up, outdoors, on a blanket one summer’s night:
I want my own sky!

Was there water in my eyes
when I learned to cry?

Not hunger-tears, nor diaper-discomfort,
not even post-nightmare dismay: I wept because
I wanted to see the Moon’s expression
when her face was turned away from us.

Was there a song in my ears
when I learned to sing?

First I began, all innocence and melody,
then I was silenced, because my pitch was imperfect.
Thereafter, even the shower walls
were respectful when I sang.

Were all of the world’s words in my mind
when I learned to write?

I know German, and a little Gibberish; at one point
I was fluent in French. But most of what I say
when I talk in my sleep is murmured, strictly dreamstuff,
not something you would recognize as speech.


(This is the alternative)

On a day when almost everything is too much effort
it turns out I am holding a banana in one hand
and not for the first time, either:
hardly anything enjoys the privilege of uniqueness.

It turned out I was holding a banana in one hand
while I stared out the dirty window to the street.
Hardly anything suffers the stigma of uniqueness.
There is a reason: we would be frightened, and we already are.

While I was staring out the window to the street
I was also trying to keep certain thoughts at bay
and for good reason: I can be frightened, and I am.
As it was, I tried to hear the freeway sounds as soothing.

There I lay, trying to keep thoughts at bay
but they were like fish that jump into the boat while you’re rowing!
I tried hard to hear the freeway noise as soothing
and not as the sound of tumbrels, advancing on the Place de Grève.

I’m serious: once a fish did jump into an eight I was rowing.
You wouldn’t read about it! the doctor at 5-seat exclaimed
but he’d never heard tumbrels, advancing on the Place de Grève.
Enough about Paris … that was then; this is now.

That fellow at 5-seat never read about it, silly doctor.
Many people are squeamish about flights of the imagination.
But enough about Paris: that was then; surely this is now.
And remember that most old lakes are difficult to navigate.

Isn’t everyone somewhat squeamish? Imagination takes flight
and not for the first time, either:
Old lakes really are most difficult to navigate
on a day when almost everything is too much effort.


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