Two Poems by Jennifer MacBain-Stephens

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens is an emerging poet who has written three non-fiction books for young people: The Salem Witch Trials: A Primary Source History of the Witchcraft Trials in Salem, Massachusetts; Women's Suffrage; and Gertrude Elion: Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology and Medicine. She has also contributed to the Lake Arrowhead, CA poetry collection “Pool of Seven.” Jennifer graduated from NYU and after several moves around the United States, currently lives in Iowa City, IA and works at a science journal.

Woodland creature

Today I cry and eat yogurt but tomorrow the moss people will come and cover the house. I stop and scoop it out scoop it out scoop it out it is bottomless to me and pink and strawberry — too cheerful and child-like for where it is about to go.

The shirts hanging from your terse grip with no place to rest. The coffee waiting in the kitchen like a stashed friend.

You have gone to your sealed off place, not locked in a room but locked in your brain.

I can help you by hiding you in the woodpile. You will be the next little chipmunk safe from the Jays and the rain, looking for a mate in that woodpile, looking for morsels of food that I can drop down from the porch balcony overhead.

I would put you in the wood pile if you were much, much smaller. I'd stack the wood gently on top of you, very carefully so that the ends match up and then I will cover you with the blue tarp. You will be safe from the Jays, I promise.

The Jays only warn of cats anyway.

I wish I could hear a warning cry from you—I do not understand these stops and starts, these seconds of pain that get stuck in heart and throat.

The ornamental grass grows tall outside my window between the rocks. It is not pretty grass even though it is called “ornamental.” 

They are weeds and no one can get at them to pick.




Trying to get inside, or, off to the fish house

Merman sucking my tongue. Everyone's watching.

You are too cold of a fish mouth. Fish maw.

To tuck my legs underneath but then I am just a torso. We are both just a couple of torsos mashing about.

We aren't supposed to return to our tails. We have grown up, emerged from our bottoms.

We have emerged from our tails to a better place, like Cape May or New Brunswick.

Too many wooden whimsical cut out puzzle shapes. They are the pretty and special but they don't fit as well with the other pieces.

The post-it note scuffles my skin—my too dry skin that you don't even notice!

I thought I was too small to go into the ocean but the ocean is in me—it's writhing liquid and living and patterns and guts, and routines and slush, it's mercury filled tuna, it's oxygen and hydrogen. I am made of the ocean and you already knew that. But you don't see me and I want you to see me.

Suck on my lips then grind out the sand and the salt.

Who will go to Maine? Will they gut you in the fish house? There I said it. I was thinking about it and I said it.

You are a fish… Like a fish to water. Like legs on land. Like tails to nowhere—I don't have.


(inspired by Cory Hutchinson Reuss's line “return to our tails.”)