Three Poems by Stephanie Lane Sutton


The year you turn 23: 2012.  The world is ending.

Take the keys to the bookstore and the job, 40 hours a week

counting money at sunrise, the high water mark of your salary.

When I was growing, my parents warned me.

What you love:  never enough to fill a table

even for one.


The first thing you learn is to always judge a book by its cover.

I used to think those shoes were too big to fill.  You are still nobody


when your electricity gets shut off,

when the bill collectors call and wake you like clock work,

when your fridge is always empty,

living hand to mouth is a symmetrical act

and what comes after, generations all dog-earred

with an appetite for dirt


when the kid comes into the bookstore and recites you poetry

he tells you about how in six months, the world will be caught

enflamed, the seven-headed beast has been televised, the revolution

evangelicized, he says,

“I was trying to lock myself in your bathroom

to do the only thing left worth changing my blood.”

None of this matters.  Your heart is reduced


is a riverbed.  You have never been a church

so much as a city park. What is within you loiters.

Looks for shelter. Sometimes,

I goddamn hate everything.

Want it all to stop.  How can I best

occupy my time in this time


like you’re not some dichotomy of errors,

like you’re not just as unsure as a

seed in soil.


This salvation is a starving book club,

a political art if we were ever conned into mere definitions.


To escape is the world’s greatest metaphor.

It is an act of doing.  What you sacrifice is nothing





Somedays you can muster up enough confidence to pick your own songs on the jukebox.  Take a shot of malort no more than three years late.  It’s been almost a week since Easter and you haven’t had any chocolate, have consumed more cigarettes than calories, Arnold Palmer like your Moses in the desert, and many things have come to pass.  Pick White Stripes, LCD Soundsystem, Interpol, and The Divynles in that order.  Dip out after the eighth “I Touch Myself” and head back to your brainspots, speckled all over the face you forgot to powder, uncomfortable on the unwiped toilet seat, the smell of tequila and shit holding up your nostrils in the beer light.  Today, a pigeon will try to land on your hair.  You tried to part yourself a different way.  Get stuck with twenty minutes of a parade of bikes and wish you could pedal with them, behind the Lounge Guy with a speaker strapped to his back, and think of the good karaoke songs from last night.  Think, “This is my statue.”  Think, “These roads follow the patterns of pedestrians and glaciers.”  At some point, the pronouns don’t seem to matter that much anymore.  All have taken their keys out during the passing, the white t-shirts and darkened coats and the faces hidden under hats, the brown paper bags containing discretion, the mud still stuck on the bottom of the shoe.  Empty feet and mp3’s waiting at the foot of the bed.  Turn up the audio.  Make the neighbors crazy.  Make them ears not be so alone.



Logan Square Oasis


Boy with a staring problem.


Takes off his leather jacket, gray letterman’s sweatshirt.


Puts them in with the rest of the wash.

Puts on bluegreen earbuds

and looks at the cycle

with infinite sadness.


The homeless couple buys another lotto ticket,

and here I am again at the Logan Square Oasis

with them, they are sitting by the windows,

by the crane machine,

with a boombox and a milkcrate

full of household necessities.

A can of soup.  Toilet paper.

Glass cleaner.  The boy with

the staring problem

puts his laundry in the unit under mine.


I don’t care.  Some Saturdays,

the actor brushes my arm

deliberately.  The dance floor

is covered with balloons we stomp and stomp on

with the flats of sneakers and also, the stilettos,

which snap ankles and hearts better than remembered.

Listen:  I didn’t come here

for your photographs—I came here to

dance, but to first, drink copiously—


there may be eight college nerds who live in this loft

turned into kings with kegs and living rooms

filled with beautiful fake eyelash women and

the staunch sports fans who come to stalk them

but I can still spend my Friday nights

in the laundromat,  I’ve got crumbs

all over the knees of my sweats,

where once, I never would have tried

to sit when there were no other hands to speak of.


To sit on the counter, legs

criss-crossed, reading Yahoo! News on one’s grease-smeared touch screen

since I, for one, could never have the patience for understanding Sodoku

when I’ve got to perfect the practice

of noticing the change in light

from steel blue to thunder orange

in the surroundings every time a commercial comes on.


Dear sir:  what if the water in your wash touches mine and the remnants of our soupy, soap-eaten fluids mix?  What makes it far less horrifying for you to stare at me than to imagine, with me, if we washed our clothes together?


I am trying to destroy the lives of strangers, he

has his sheets cycloning with the brightness

of my disembodied wardrobe, tossing these images

as if this world walled with machines were like a moving painting,

a living chessboard, say,

“King me” when you know the rules are outdated, make

more quarters out of dollars than what you need

to break it all down into fractions:

each tile is a piece of the floor, each foot

unwilling without a step, each step

a walk that follows different patterns,

each pattern, a different way of traveling,

I said, there’s a cramp in my hand,

since my eyes are like dimmed marbles

after reading the fine print for so long.


Dear sir:  when I look at you, I see you there.  When I write, is when I get to stare.





Filed under: Uncategorized

Leave a comment