Two poems by Jeannine Hall Gailey

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Martha Dunfee

Lights Out

You are unprepared for the darkness, when it comes.
The one candle is always on a shelf you can’t reach,
matches in a drawer somewhere you can’t see.

Lights Out. You were always afraid of what you’d find
in the dark, the monster in the closet, the bat in your hair.
But now, you suddenly notice the starlight, the eerie glow

coming from your laptop. You’re afraid that the dark
won’t hide you. You imagine yourself bathed in white light,
the UFO beam, the flashbulb, to calm your nerves.

Lights Out. We rely on a power grid vulnerable
to EMP attacks, or just a storm or a hungry rat
chewing cables underground. We love our artificial

daytime. We’ve even forgotten how the full moon
used to feel, a brief chance to see into the dark,
a time of lunacy, of madness. Because it drove us mad

to have light outside of the sun. The thin filament of
incandescence, how it freed us but made work possible
after midnight. How it made us dependent, tired,

adding to our lonely hours. Lights out, copper,
the movie thugs used to say. It was not a good omen.
Time keeps getting away from us.

Lights out, your mother called through the echoing halls,
time for sleep. Now we seek the unfamiliar silence,
the strange solace of perfect dark.


Sitting By Yourself at the End of the World – I Mean, Year

You start to wonder about the luck
in the bottom of the bowl: noodles, black-eyed peas, grapes.

After the disappointments, the almost-ends, a year insistent
on driving itself in the murky light of December, a drunken

swerve into death’s waiting arms, what can we expect from tomorrow?
Here’s my hope: for health, for penguin families,

for quiet long days of sunshine. Once more, with feeling.
can we celebrate with fireworks the explosions of ambition

and anger, an America that may be disintegrating before our eyes,
children who’ve forgotten anything but the touchscreen and LED?

In the gray fog, it may be the bangs and whimpers will go unnoticed.
The fragments forgotten, the torn limbs buried, unseen.

This year I was told I had six months to live, and now it’s been seven.
Buying time is all I can hope for. It seems now’s the time to put on the sparkly

dress, stand in line to see the stars, make the leap unimagined.
Each grape for a lucky month, each pop a promise.




Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the VillainessShe Returns to the Floating WorldUnexplained FeversThe Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA’s Elgin Award. She’s also the author of PR for Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity and Marketing. Her work has been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and The Best Horror of the Year. Her work appeared in journals such as American Poetry ReviewNotre Dame Review, and Prairie Schooner. Twitter: @webbish6.