Annie Stenzel – Three Poems



The light in late November wears
its winter face, even at this latitude:

long shadows and everything a little
pallid; the sun skulking around

a few degrees above the horizon, even
though its heat is more than ample

for so late in the year. Great fires
are in the news again, or still; we fret

about the lack of rain, no snowfall
yet – what will become of the ski-fields.

People have pulled warm clothes out of moth-
balls, whether they wear wool or not.

As the days get shorter we act a bit
ursine: eat more, draw the drapes by 5 p.m.

clutch morning covers close.
Tired season in our bones, we

watch a sunset’s glory greedily; study the moon’s
rise as tenderly as when we gaze at babies’ faces.

Cronos: His Tempo

Back in the day, a traveler
on a dusty road, might say to a person
in the town along the way

What news?

And whatever news was vital
passed from one to the other
then, thirst or hunger slaked,

the traveler headed on
along the necessary path
until the next encounter; the next

What news?

News had to travel at a walking pace
not, as it does in our agitated era
at the speed of sparks along a wire—

as though traveler and bystander
were positioned always each
within the sound of the other’s voice

never mind the miles and thoughtful days
that used to separate them
from the tidings’ conveyance

so that catastrophe, no matter how
extreme, was already cushioned
by time’s quiet pillow

before someone, perhaps at my remove
learned of it at last
and fell to pieces.

Provenance, as applied to a stone

Within days, perhaps hours, of your picking it up, a stone
is lost to its old home forever.

Say goodbye to the stream-bed or the tide-pool, little rock:
curiosity plucks it up; admiration holds it to the light;
some superstition about what it might signify bears it away.

What becomes of the long-time custom of dropping into a pocket
those pieces of serpentine, sandstone or chert?

Most of these treasures are ditched
at the motel door once it turns out
color flees them when they dry.

And yet: today, in your mother’s cut-glass bowl—
the one you rarely use, that in her day held rhubarb
or cranberries for a holiday meal— put the stones there
and see the wild congregation of yellow and grey, white, green

and black, the round, the rough, the smooth?
Just add water, and wherever they came from
surely the stones will remember.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Every sense knows beauty, and harvests it insatiably. None of us could survive a single 21 st century day without it. Endlessly-altered view from my window; phrase of Chopin from the piano in a house I walk past; touch of the salt air on my cheek from a southerly breeze; fragrance of something delicious baking next door; first sip of my morning cup of tea—the supply knows no end. Add memory, and I can conjure beauty with my eyes closed: a peak in the antipodes, every necessary recollection of a year spent in Paris, poems I committed to memory decades ago, and the faces of beloved people now long dead. I was stunned the first time I heard him say it, but I know a man who is blind, and he often talks about the beauty that surrounds him.


Annie Stenzel received her B.A. in English and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Mills College in Oakland. Her poems appear in a wide range of print and online journals, from Ambit to Rat’s Ass Review, with stops at Catamaran Literary Reader, Kestrel and Quiddity. Her book-length manuscript, To measure the dark, will surely find a publisher one day soon, as it has been a finalist or semi-finalist in various contests.  By day, she works at a mid-size San Francisco law firm.