person stephanie roberts, two poems

stephanie roberts is the author of rushes from the river disappointment (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020). She enjoys the reclusive life where she is finishing her third poetry collection. Contact at



we who shivered in the wind
of one another as a fireweed field
travelled the scrub waste places
in Canarsie
and also scaled the urine stairs
of a tenement building
with broken elevators
trying to arrive under
identical brutal sky.
you rose first
and I after.
my fingers typed the bannister
your desire burnished
turning every landing
to dream the top
where I find you missing.
You got yourself off a floor beneath me
while stair after stair
three cards shift with nothing under
I can choose.
the door hung open
I missed you
moon ached open
can of darkness.



Joy most transient river droughtingup come June when it summers it dries without aftertaste not how winter carves inside gut out ice memories set you shaking in your seat painremembersyou like a virus you will bed in your coffin so now I (who trust you) am afraid to say I trust you and am more mortified at the prospect of asking you to trust me oh god no no please do not trust me don’t burden me to remain faithful to you (I beg) treat your every unconfirmed unjustified unvalidated fear of how I might hurt you as a DEFINITE POSSIBILITY if not inevitability who am I to come between people in committed relationship with suspicion yes and yes of course I am a scorpion (better) a rattlesnake hear what I’m shaking diagnose the burning tower of my devotion as portent that I’m about to fang you yes to projection anything but my asking you to trust me molecular fear can’t bear it no matter how ardently joy is the bona fide good dug up as my black truffle heart trustme activates siren to take anchor head for high seas so diligently has this truth been beaten into me I vessel steroidal reverence for silencing such passions respecting the power of the softest words to repel the Ones loved most from this abominably frank altar do not trust me.

4 march 2014


person stephanie roberts, two poems

stephanie roberts is an artist who aspires to the recluse life. A 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee, she’s been a finalist in some cool opportunities and her poetry has appeared in many periodicals, lately in Atlanta Review, FLAPPERHOUSE, Occulum, JARFLY Magazine, L’Éphémère Review, antinarrative journal, as well as Verse Daily and The Stockholm Review of Literature.


you snatch tangled skeins of love
from your own mouth as the falcon
demolished the dove breast
dashed small flight from its air
death without coo of grief.

organize your anorexia.

the choicest morsel of words
are burning through your cheeks
a witch test (trial by ordeal)
tongue gagging against epiglottis.

eggs cascade
from an open window;
asian widow observes
the one after another.
comic instrumental music.
a triangle. no words
for white tragedy.
fell chorus held their breath
before pealing into laughter.

with an insurmountable faith
in bounce, we are crimson
with embarrassment or
hatred. over the sink, i wash
the joke from my face.
it is all i can do
to bear an ongoing awful
—faltering courage waxes.


Was it only Tuesday that we spoke of musical possession and the
contemplation that rhetoricals are seances? Hands on The Table of Questions
summon subjectivity—reality being what is often rejected over the savory
soup of delusion, we eat and enjoy. Last night arrived as a ferris-wheel-
memory of song turning. Its groove wore smooth the imageless dark.

Relief emerges, like mushrooms dissolve the dead log of my anxiety, to hear
that Louise Glück (whom we both admire) grows likewise entwined and
resolute in the obsession of some melody’s peculiar smile. She said in an
interview (and charmingly so), It may have been hard on my family. And she
listens to classical music, which I think particularly forceful to wear one out.

I have determined (as much as possible) to keep crazy wrapped—cocoon a
rapture of listening under the refuge of earphones where two hundred or
more dances (the cloud keeps exact measure of madness) thicken a rich
pudding of imagination’s fermentation. In similarity! tempered chocolate
needs constant stir and temperature—in constant belief. When the
compulsion ends, you pour remembrance into molds where solidity bows
with snap and shine (godwillin’), a perfect balance of sugar and bitterness.
But what a drive through New Jersey until obsession gets a hold of herself,
until memory of that face dissolves, until you forgive yourself the thing you
can’t forgive yourself, until the pain from the beatings of your childhood
shrugs off your weary recollection, until god stifles laughter at hope held in
nerve damaged hands, until these ransom demands of the poem are met.
(stop sending me my body parts), until the insistence of the amygdala is satisfied.

Does melody transpose its throes into the work of our letters? (Glück had a
conclusion of not necessarily.) A beg, a please, a ring, ring, ring. Rage for
water. Rage against aging. Rage against cowardice wearing the shirt of

Five o’clock dawn. In epiphany, the floor jumps to meet the coda of glass’
sharp and scatter. Could anything be more decisive? Just as, finally and
rushed, I arrived at the climax to the longed for. The conclusion, closure is
curtain call, sew him up. The gentle and hurting whisper of a door’s kiss. A
strain of violins fever into crescendo something German and merciless; a
crow of completion swells and every second thereafter lessens its bold
impression. Fading, but for the bedside mesh of paper and ebony ink to net
the shadow of fire’s here-here-now. All writ at the edge of our waning navy

We are burdened builders of monuments of sound, and butchers sectioning
meat and sinew with the overseer’s lexicon—the very whips that destroyed
our god!

I would sell love for the Definitive Translation of Every Malignant Silence
the pauses that echo into themselves, and us tautening the reins of our hearts
toward chasm. In the finale, the chorus sustains such heights that half the
audience weeps, while others hear-no-evil—that truth that at length will out.

My dear Dear, Dearest! How viscerally we know game up and in, the pitcher
lets go but what is hurled is not a ball but himself, his father, his grandfather
linked unbroken to Africa. The batter (if he intercepts the arrival of all that
iron fortitude) negotiates his own transference of indigo music, blooming
red through his body, (internal dance known to be prayer!) all rote inhalation
for emptying this life, rich or impoverished as it is, by that subtraction.

From my mother’s resting place, I carried the ash of her dreams as nutrients
for my garden and a pressure to be expended. In the case of this morning,
bored through with a mania for the tiger of dawn, striped, alien, and
awesome in its separation, as to be, yes, a possession and resonate actuality.