The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: JoAnn Balingit’s “Words for House Story”


My Mother’s Whereabouts

I always suspected my mother
of having no whereabouts:
lost in the shower? laundry room?
or down the dirt road picking
Mrs. Whiteman’s green beans
no, naturally she was juggling pans
when her twelve human cannonballs
were shot without a net
a magician threw his curtain back
to reveal—vanished! impossible
to reach her, except through her
twins, the clairvoyant boy and girl
I’ve hardly met, who look just
like my mother, this isn’t funny,
upside down underwater in chains,
who steal through the applause
and a tumult of stallions and tutus
to climb smiling into center
ring—no one ever told me
my mother joined the circus—
or that I would find myself
on a tightrope learning not to fall
when I swallow my mother
like a sword in flames
and dare the lioness of her death
to wake me from my terror
I’ve forgotten her address

This selection comes from JoAnn Balingit’s book Words for House Story, available now from WordTech Editions. Purchase your copy here!

JoAnn Balingit is the author of Words for House Story and two award-winning chapbooks. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, Cutthroat, DIAGRAM, Salt Hill and Verse Daily; and she’s been a featured performer at Sunday Salon NYC, Woman Made Gallery in Chicago and Feats of Poetic Strength in Philadelphia. As Delaware’s poet laureate and an arts-in-education advocate, she coordinates the state’s Poetry Out Loud contest and Delaware’s Scholastic Writing Awardsprogram for grades 7 – 12. Fellowships from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Camargo Foundation (as a 2014 Bread Loaf Bakeless Fellow in fiction) have been vital to her work. JoAnn is an assistant editor at YesYes Books. Please visit at!

Melanie Jordan‘s chapbook, Ghost Season, is available from Ropewalk Press; her work has been published in the Iowa Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Poetry Southeast, Third Coast, DIAGRAM, Southeast Review, and others. She studied Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga before receiving her MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and her doctorate from the University of Houston. She currently teaches Creative Writing, literature, and composition at the University of West Georgia. Her debut collection,Hallelujah for the Ghosties, was published by Sundress in 2015.


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