Once Upon a Time

posted Jan 13, 2009

           there was a girl who started reading
and couldn’t stop. Holed up
           with a stack of books, she laid them out
where the other girls had dolls, heads

           peeking above the covers. She slept
at the bed edge, chin out. Nights
           she ate them left to right, flashlight buzzing
across the selvage. Began to breakfast

           on words, fill empty space
with line on line. Soon no one
           could see in. At meals, she pushed
the peas around on her plate, hid pages

           under her napkin, ate them later
(1) in the bathtub (2) on the schoolbus
           (3) under the big willow in the backyard.
Mostly she stayed in, opaque

           and opaquer, casting shadows
on the kitchen wall. They got longer
           as the sun went down. It wasn’t so bad
out there, she thought, just... less.

           She kept going, leaving nothing
out—cereal boxes, billboards,
           horoscopes. Long Russian novels
full of war and snow.

All of it became her, dense center
           of a private lode: the music
she would say, the day
           she would turn to the world, inside out.

After working as an arts magazine publisher, gift wrapper, film studio gofer, and cocktail

waitress, Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet now makes her living as a freelance editor. Her book Tulips, Water, Ash was selected for the 2009 Morse Prize and will be published in October by University Press of New England. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and son.

Stonestreet’s poem “Left-Handed Universe: Variations” also appears in this issue.