The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Cracked Piano by Margo Taft Stever

Nothing’s Holding Up Nothing

El Salvador, 1982

Under the floorboards with the wood
rot, the insects, ants skittering to
and fro, the mother hides with her child.
Her nipple’s in the infant’s mouth,
but her milk won’t let down.

She did nothing, but the officials
suspected, decided to make an example,
the child dragged out, beaten,
the bellies of flowers, blackened,
the bells, the bells,
the long toll of roots . . .

It is hard to believe anything
was ever alive under here, under
these boards, anything alive
for long under these boards.
Filaments break off and powder
as if they never were wood,
as if the hollows were roads
going somewhere, as if the mother’s
breasts could fill with milk, as if
her child could breathe again.


This selection comes from the book, Cracked Piano, available from CavanKerry.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sarah Ghoshal.

Margo Taft Stever’s poetry collections include Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press, 2019); Ghost Moose (Kattywompus Press, 2019); The Lunatic Ball (Kattywompus Press, 2015); The Hudson Line (Main Street Rag, 2012); Frozen Spring (Mid-List Press First Series Award, 2002) and Reading the Night Sky (Riverstone Press Poetry Chapbook Competition, 1996). She co-authored Looking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 U.S. Diplomatic Mission to China (Zhejiang University Press, 2012). Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, including Verse Daily; Prairie Schooner; Connecticut Review; “poem-a-day” on poets.org, Academy of American Poets; Cincinnati Review; upstreet; Plume; and Salamander. She is founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center and founding and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. She lives in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Sarah Ghoshal’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Arsenic Lobster, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Empty Mirror, Red Savina Review and Broad! Magazine, among others. Her chapbook, Changing the Grid, is available from Finishing Line Press. She earned her MFA from Long Island University and teaches at Montclair State University. Sarah lives in New Jersey with her husband, her ten month old daughter and her dog Comet, who flies through the air with the greatest of ease.

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Cracked Piano by Margo Taft Stever

Queen City

Coming back to Cincinnati,
a wayward soul looking for a sign, I see the city
stretching out like a foresworn promise.

The thing next to cleanliness—Cincinnati—
host to Proctor & Gamble, the Smut Buster,
Skyline Chili. I now return like a blind man

inhabiting a woman’s body, an alien
within an alien, hopelessly lost, sensing Cincinnati
will always be foreign. The city will always catapult me

to a childhood endlessly spinning
out of control. Cincinnati, oh city of fountains,
squares, new buildings I will never recognize,

what is your plan? Returning to the once great
Queen City, riverboat town, gateway to the south, I find
ghosts of the underground railroad, Mapplethorpe, race

riots, boycotts. Cincinnati, where crows combed the outlying
fields in awful stillness, and dogs barked as if they alone
knew their voices echoed for miles down hollows,

where are you now? Where is the Cincinnati filled
with concrete strength, suppressed love, waiting breath,
this city of my youth with everything opening, where smells

of spring meant daffodils covered whole hillsides
with yellow? City once called Porkopolis, where hordes of pigs
pushed pedestrians off streets, once trashed

by Frances Trollope, why am I coming back to you, land
restlessly stolen, abandoned in adolescent
despair, vanished island, lost promise of light?


This selection comes from the book, Cracked Piano, available from CavanKerry.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sarah Ghoshal.

Margo Taft Stever’s poetry collections include Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press, 2019); Ghost Moose (Kattywompus Press, 2019); The Lunatic Ball (Kattywompus Press, 2015); The Hudson Line (Main Street Rag, 2012); Frozen Spring (Mid-List Press First Series Award, 2002) and Reading the Night Sky (Riverstone Press Poetry Chapbook Competition, 1996). She co-authored Looking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 U.S. Diplomatic Mission to China (Zhejiang University Press, 2012). Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, including Verse Daily; Prairie Schooner; Connecticut Review; “poem-a-day” on poets.org, Academy of American Poets; Cincinnati Review; upstreet; Plume; and Salamander. She is founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center and founding and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. She lives in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Sarah Ghoshal’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Arsenic Lobster, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Empty Mirror, Red Savina Review and Broad! Magazine, among others. Her chapbook, Changing the Grid, is available from Finishing Line Press. She earned her MFA from Long Island University and teaches at Montclair State University. Sarah lives in New Jersey with her husband, her ten month old daughter and her dog Comet, who flies through the air with the greatest of ease.

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Cracked Piano by Margo Taft Stever

Surfaces

Take possession
of the blanket, the feel
of it, the smooth

and the lean, the lying
down of it, the way it
imitates the body.

This is the promise
I keep—to rest on the
bed under moonlight.

Yet so many cats
knead the surfaces;
their paws tap-dance,

wishing for food.
The dark summer
storm rips across

the bed, rumpling
covers like waves,
whitecaps against

each other.
Cats’ paws skim
the sheets as if

called by a higher spirit.
Their willowy bodies
curl together in sleep.


This selection comes from the book, Cracked Piano, available from CavanKerry.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sarah Ghoshal.

Margo Taft Stever’s poetry collections include Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press, 2019); Ghost Moose (Kattywompus Press, 2019); The Lunatic Ball (Kattywompus Press, 2015); The Hudson Line (Main Street Rag, 2012); Frozen Spring (Mid-List Press First Series Award, 2002) and Reading the Night Sky (Riverstone Press Poetry Chapbook Competition, 1996). She co-authored Looking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 U.S. Diplomatic Mission to China (Zhejiang University Press, 2012). Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, including Verse Daily; Prairie Schooner; Connecticut Review; “poem-a-day” on poets.org, Academy of American Poets; Cincinnati Review; upstreet; Plume; and Salamander. She is founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center and founding and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. She lives in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Sarah Ghoshal’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Arsenic Lobster, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Empty Mirror, Red Savina Review and Broad! Magazine, among others. Her chapbook, Changing the Grid, is available from Finishing Line Press. She earned her MFA from Long Island University and teaches at Montclair State University. Sarah lives in New Jersey with her husband, her ten month old daughter and her dog Comet, who flies through the air with the greatest of ease.

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Cracked Piano by Margo Taft Stever

Wind Innuendo

So small
she cannot talk,
the child sits
in a field of
daffodils.
Her face
held close
to the blossoms
turns
slightly yellow
in sunlight.

Pollen grinds into
her hands.
Stems tickle her
backbone, thread
into her skin.

The thick
strings of stamen
lick her tongue.
Her petals bend,
always in wind.
To insects that enter,

each movement is
innuendo.
Her body opens
and opens, swills
in the billowing
spring light.


This selection comes from the book, Cracked Piano, available from CavanKerry.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sarah Ghoshal.

Margo Taft Stever’s poetry collections include Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press, 2019); Ghost Moose (Kattywompus Press, 2019); The Lunatic Ball (Kattywompus Press, 2015); The Hudson Line (Main Street Rag, 2012); Frozen Spring (Mid-List Press First Series Award, 2002) and Reading the Night Sky (Riverstone Press Poetry Chapbook Competition, 1996). She co-authored Looking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 U.S. Diplomatic Mission to China (Zhejiang University Press, 2012). Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, including Verse Daily; Prairie Schooner; Connecticut Review; “poem-a-day” on poets.org, Academy of American Poets; Cincinnati Review; upstreet; Plume; and Salamander. She is founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center and founding and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. She lives in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Sarah Ghoshal’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Arsenic Lobster, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Empty Mirror, Red Savina Review and Broad! Magazine, among others. Her chapbook, Changing the Grid, is available from Finishing Line Press. She earned her MFA from Long Island University and teaches at Montclair State University. Sarah lives in New Jersey with her husband, her ten month old daughter and her dog Comet, who flies through the air with the greatest of ease.

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Cracked Piano by Margo Taft Stever

Idiot’s Guide to Counting

How do you become one
with the horse, riding and becoming
the act of riding,
and the horse becoming the self
and the other at exactly
the same second, counting strides,
counting muscle movement,
counting fences, hurtling over
them with the horse, counting
the everything
of one?

How do you count, how do you
pull a muscle turning over
in bed at night—measurements
that change everything, counting
back to everything, the everything
of one, the pulled muscles of the back
of one, the entanglement
of one, the waves of particles
counting back, the quantum?

How to become one with
the branches of a tree, a grandfather
tree in an apple orchard
that no longer exists?
Separate one
from tree, horse,
counting numbers, counting
the grandfather tree
to find the solution of
one.

Counting trees, leaves, counting
everything as no longer
existing, counting
trees as one with the everything
that no longer exists.


This selection comes from the book, Cracked Piano, available from CavanKerry.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sarah Ghoshal.

Margo Taft Stever’s poetry collections include Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press, 2019); Ghost Moose (Kattywompus Press, 2019); The Lunatic Ball (Kattywompus Press, 2015); The Hudson Line (Main Street Rag, 2012); Frozen Spring (Mid-List Press First Series Award, 2002) and Reading the Night Sky (Riverstone Press Poetry Chapbook Competition, 1996). She co-authored Looking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 U.S. Diplomatic Mission to China (Zhejiang University Press, 2012). Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, including Verse Daily; Prairie Schooner; Connecticut Review; “poem-a-day” on poets.org, Academy of American Poets; Cincinnati Review; upstreet; Plume; and Salamander. She is founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center and founding and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. She lives in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Sarah Ghoshal’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Arsenic Lobster, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Empty Mirror, Red Savina Review and Broad! Magazine, among others. Her chapbook, Changing the Grid, is available from Finishing Line Press. She earned her MFA from Long Island University and teaches at Montclair State University. Sarah lives in New Jersey with her husband, her ten month old daughter and her dog Comet, who flies through the air with the greatest of ease.