Portrait of the woman under observation by Annie Stenzel

Portrait of the woman under observation

In the new place, at dawn the eastern light
finds its way through three tall windows.

At night, a street-lamp mimics the moon,
sneaks in to amend the bedroom’s darkness.

All day, not far away, freight trains take a leisurely
tour of small-town tracks. Clang-clang-clang-clang

as the barriers descend on sundry streets. Traffic
is philosophical. It’s only a matter of time.

En route to one word, another word interposes itself: Why not
say Vespoli when you mean Tivoli? Okay. No harm done.

Already, she finds things put away in the wrong
drawer, or on a shelf too high for easy access.

A labyrinth of boxes and bags dwindles, but
hodgepodged items loom where they were dropped.

Every move from one space to the next previews
that unthinkable portal to the place that is no place at all.


Annie Stenzel (she/her) was born in Illinois, but did not stay put. Her full-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 Ambit to Thimble, with stops at Chestnut Review, Gargoyle, Nixes Mate, On the Seawall, Psaltery & Lyre, SWWIM, Stirring, and The Lake, among others. Her second collection was recently shortlisted for the Washington Prize at The Word Works. A poetry editor for the online journals Right Hand Pointing and West Trestle Review, she lives on unceded Ohlone land within walking distance of the San Francisco Bay.

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