Five Poems

Getting In, Daylilies, Funeral of a Bumblebee, Song for Jacqueline, and Little Iliad

Adrian Bischoff/Flickr
Adrian Bischoff/Flickr

Getting In

Some people jump, some people dive,
Others inch by inch arrive

And give themselves up to the chill,
Piecemeal, with a grudging will:

First toes, then ankles tempt the cold,
And backs of knees, that, tender, fold,

Then thighs that start to pimple, blotch,
A shock like ice that slaps the crotch

And slides up shivering past the hips,
(And into the bellybutton slips).

Elbows hitch higher, till a ripple
Laps the aureole and nipple

(Sea-urchin shells, repoussé, round).
The armpits shrug until they’re drowned,

Now collarbone, now nape, now chin,
And now, out of your depth, you’re in.


I remember them, a lifetime back,
Fanta orange, the way they grew
Feral by the railroad track,
Abundance in abandon, swarms
On the embankment, gravelled, steep.
I’d pick some for a vase, or two,
Back then, when I held beauty cheap,
There for the taking, in your arms.

Each afternoon was thunderstorms,
High dudgeon in the crowns of oak
And umbraged clouds, lightning would drop,
And then a hundred dishes broke.
And just as quickly, it would stop,
A dripping peace, the sodden worms,
Birdsong in the treble wires,
The clouds cerise with under-fires.

Is memory a kind of praise?
Each day the same storm would unfold,
And in post-thunder afternoons,
The after-light was syrup-gold,
As one by one, the flowers scrolled
Shut, like jaundiced silk cocoons,
And some plunked on the tabletop,
Those days ephemeral as days.

Funeral of a Bumblebee

I found a bumblebee, who’d died:
Its head was bowed, its torso curled,
It lay, tipped over to one side
Here at the coda of the world.

Its black wings smooth as polished oars
Were poised mid-stroke. An empty tower
Of silence droned, as loud as snores
That drowsed their way from flower to flower.

Its sable fur was trimmed with gold,
Its hands were folded to its chest.
Let poppies close now, unconsoled,
And six ants bear it to its rest.

Song for Jacqueline

When she was stressed she would tuck herself away and sing. I always knew when she had been singing because she would emerge from the cellar where she had privacy absolutely beaming.
—Barney Spender

She went to song when she was stressed,
The room where she was host and guest,
And when the world was highly strung,
The song was where she went to rest.

Though song is disembodied, sung,
An air that’s made of air, among
The other breaths, the sigh, the rose,
And melts like silence on the tongue,

Yet song is where the singer goes
Down scales and up arpeggios,
The tall shelf where she puts her pain,
And takes down radiance and repose.

Does singer or does song contain
The tears that rain down right as rain,
The bridge and hook, the blue note bent,
The burden that is song’s refrain?

The song had need of her—her scent,
Her warmth, her body’s instrument,
And now we must take up the song
Because the song is where she went.

Little Iliad


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A. E. Stallings is an American poet and former MacArthur fellow who lives in Athens, Greece. Her latest collection, This Afterlife: Selected Poems, was just published.


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