Two Poems


I was moving across the country for a man 
and a job. The man 
happened first and the job followed

which made me lucky. 
The girl next to me 
rubbed a stick with a roller ball on the end

over her inner wrists, top notes of rancid 
butter and sugar complimenting 
my Sonoma Blend. The flight attendants 

gave a dramatic reading
of each other’s bio: Mark swore by CrossFit 
and Candy’s favorite color was clear.

The girl continued applying products, 
opening an egg with a mound of mint 
lip balm inside, then using her finger 

to dab it on her eyebrows, 
brushing the little hairs upward 
with her nails. 

I was probably around her age 
when I first shaved all my body hair 
using a whole pack of Schick twins

after my friend went with a boy 
into the back room of his basement, 
where his dad kept the weights. 

After, he’d given her a nickname, 
something to do with wooly mammoths. 
A Merino sheep named Shrek 

was a minor story 
in the back of my in-flight magazine.
For years he hid in a cave 

so he wouldn’t be sheared,
and when he was found was a hero for a day 
before he was shaved on live news, enough wool 

for twenty men’s suits. 
But that’s not where the humiliation ended, 
I wanted to lean over and tell the girl,

he was shaved again on an iceberg floating 
off the coast of New Zealand. 
Of course I didn’t say a word to her, 

just kept drinking my shit wine
as we flew over the white puffs
doing the only thing they can do.

Interior Life

There’s a fly in the house I can’t kill.

I won’t know if it’s real until I kill it.

It darts through my periphery as my internet 

yogi tells me that a cow 

can be an opening. I turn my mat 

to face the window

so I can see the tree on fire, 

the red maple, but a truck that reads 

MOVING? is in the way. 

Imagine yourself as a child 

watching, says the yogi, which I never 

want to remember—

everything I had to watch. 

I don’t let her finish. 

What she wanted was for me to take up space,

something about reclaiming joy 

by thinking of my favorite childhood 

TV program. Later, I give it a try 

while folding laundry, 

The Real Housewives of somewhere

on high volume to dominate 

the persistent buzzing 

in my ear. A Dwell 

magazine placed on the back 

of my husband’s shirt 

helps me get a proper fold. 

Am I taking up space, with the proper fold? 

In my house clothes I get on the floor 

into extended child’s pose and reach

for the cow opening. I press an ear 

to the wood and listen for something 

in another room,

in another house. What I hear 

is a long conversation about me 

that I didn’t begin. 

I hear my own voice from a distance: 

I don’t want to say the words of what happened.

Some days I’m floating around and don’t know it

until I break the French press again.

Ryann Stevenson‘s first book, Human Resources, is the winner of the 2021 Max Ritvo Poetry Prize, selected by Henri Cole. It is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in June 2022. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit JournalBennington ReviewColumbia Poetry ReviewThe Cortland ReviewDenver Quarterly, and Kenyon Review, among others. She lives in Oakland, California.