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“Stalled,” “The Familiar,” and “The Visitation”

by Jeanne Julian


Once, I was corralled into competing

against other tense and giddy youthful thespians

delivering emotive monologues. Mid-


mental             block.          


Voice stopped, choked

by dread.

Inwardly howling in humiliation

I pretended my faltering was

The End

~finis ̴

and fled

to a bathroom stall, pent, locked

there trembling like a rodeo bronc,

hide wet, breath haltered

by nerves, thinking my soul

sentenced to a stymied story, stuck

in a haze of mediocrity

all my days, never spurred

to brazen glory,

ever snared in witless shame.

And you—you, Reader—

Gentle and perhaps in maturity

Confident, Accomplished—

don’t you too yearn

to finagle the freeing

of your early self,

that wrangled filly?

Unbolt the gate, holler “git!”

and watch her gallop careless,

unsaddled, undone, undimmed

at being unfinished? 

Or, are you stalled, still?

“The Familiar”

“Luck! Luck! that’s what I care for in a cage.”

—Theodore Roethke

Your finger came at her like a sunbeam

through the Shelter bars.

She tapped it with her paw and so picked you.

Strange: the only one among all creatures

whom she allows to gather

her malleable heft,

the sleek, soft, sheathed bone bundle of her.

You exchange small arpeggios

of greeting and need

which seem successfully to intimate.

And so you believe

you do not fail

each other,


without words,

you’ll never know:

absence of purr remains mystery.

You think you see her curled shape

in the unbuckled sandals on the floor,

in the shadow cast

by the shirt draped on a chair.

But outside the house

she crouches

disguised by fern  and twilight.

Her canary eyes singing

in the dark pit of separation


watch your door.

“The Visitation”

I checked in to The Gullible Inn of quaint Quandary Corners, Vermont.

The only room available was The Honeymoon Suite.

I said, “That’s okay. I’m immune.”

That evening I lay beneath the patchwork quilt,

eyeing the floral wallpaper,

moonglow on wide pine floorboards.

Then the ghost appeared, a winsome fellow.

He slipped into bed with me.

He said, “You have a choice. I can tell you a story

or I can say nothing.”

I said I wanted the story.

He said, “The ending’s not happy.”

I said, “I want the story.”

As he spoke, I must have drifted

into sleep, held in his misty arms.

Later he tried to creep from the bed

without disturbing me, but I was awake.

I could see through him as he moved away,

like looking through a waterfall into firelight.

Then he passed through the wall, radiance

fading into pale flat flowers.

Next morning I saw a framed cross-stitch on the wall:

If you want blueberry muffins

you must make your own.

—The Proprietors.

Over breakfast I said to the other guests, “This place is haunted.”

They smirked. “Of course. What did you expect

at the Gullible Inn?”

Ah, but they’ve never seen a ghost.

Co-winner of Reed Magazine‘s Edwin Markham Prize (2019), Jeanne Julian is the author of Like the O in Hope and two chapbooks. Her poems appear in Poetry Quarterly, Bacopa Literary Review, Snapdragon, Kakalak, Coastal Shelf, and other journals and have won awards from The Comstock ReviewNaugatuck River Review, the North Carolina Poetry Society, and Maine Poets’ Society. She regularly reviews poetry books for The Main Street Rag. Jeanne lives in South Portland, Maine.

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