August 2006

Christine Ann Stewart


Christine Ann Stewart Christine Stewart is an artist-in-residence with Creative Alliance in Baltimore. She has an M.A. and M.F.A. in creative writing and poetry, is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and has been published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Blackbird, and other literary magazines. She was recently awarded an Individual Artist Grant in Fiction from the Maryland State Arts Council.
Body Cloud    Click to hear in real audio

Scientists tell us we each move within
a dust storm,
microscopic, yet just as powerful in its way
as a tornado, containing
leftovers of our days: those we touched,
kissed, passed on a street,
sat with in a waiting room, clothes we wore,
soap we used, car exhaust,
particles of sun. Surely there must also be
those romantic remnants: memory,
dreams, the first flare of falling in love,
failure, fear.
Picture Pigpen, from the Charlie Brown
cartoon, with dirt puffs circling
him wherever he goes. What if you could
know the wrong person
by what's whirling around them, or hold onto
pieces of the good
ones lost, feel them spinning close, not caring
whether it's to keep you
safe or trapped. I know it's said that all these
things are what brings
us to the right place in life, but I'll admit:
I don't want who and what
I've collected anymore. They never die,
no matter how many times
you write down their names and try to burn
the paper. The ash remains. In the back
of your brain there's still the steady drip
of the time they were there,
that you can't completely shut off.
Call me fatalistic, or depressed,
but I want to hire a crew that cleans up after suicides  
to come in body suits  
and masks, and remove everything I own.
To scrub floors, walls,
and windows, and vacuum the cloud
into a biohazard bag.
Just in case, they should wash and shave
and sew me up—
whatever it takes so nothing gets in.
It's not enough to be like Dorothy
and ride the tunnel to another
world, away from the hand I feel that isn't
there. They'd follow me—
my voices—and whisper,
what chokes me when there's nothing in my throat.



Christine Ann Stewart: Poetry
Copyright ©2006 The Cortland Review Issue 33The Cortland Review