Andy Stallings




The second of three rented


apartments was overhung by


banana leaves, which we


didn’t cut back the whole


year our daughter was two,


but when she was three and


there was a hard freeze, she


picked up all the leaves and


hauled them away. Hans, the


German neighbor, came to


San Jose in the 1950s,


worked as an ambulance


driver, said the rival


ambulance companies would


race to the scenes of


accidents, and if his company


arrived second, they’d park


so close behind the first that


they couldn’t get their gurney


out, that’s how you steal a


patient, he said. Time in


which everything seems


already to have arrived. It’s a


flaw of memory, the sense it


gives of always standing atop


a hill, looking out. But in


dreams there is only one


sense working, which is


different than all the senses


active at once, so dreams


were nothing at all like


waking life. Out for a walk in


the dry creek bed. A


complicated melody, the


spreading around of leaves,


the powerful body striding


along. I do believe in the


depth of a living tree.




The book I want to read is


always “over there.” When


choosing between lilac and


jasmine, either flower a sign


of breeze in the treetops,


though unrelated. To what


does my body owe its posture


the way grass owes morning


dew. She doesn’t know that


this morning her mother will


take her to Lake Wyola, and


let her wade out to her neck


in the cold, cold water to


reach the line of buoys that


shapes the swimming zone.


Waiting for a parent to


address and stamp an


envelope filled with coins.


But walking down Mulberry


Street with my family, I felt


the shape of the crowd


around us as my own shape.


What made it poetry. Light


evening chill. 




The golf balls were always


brought back to shore from


where they’d landed in the 


lake, though not necessarily


that summer. What gets


within a leaf and wets it from


the inside. Surface murmur I


try to hold all the edges of at


once. The space around an


idea is imaginative space. As


a negative multiplied by a


negative becomes positive,


the doubled distance feels like


proximity. His train whistle


imitation was convincing,


and we remembered it


thereafter, because when he


made it at a crossing as a


joke, the driver swerved the


wheel and peed his pants.


That direction, from this


direction. A road is a form


for wonder. 




She held two caterpillars


gently between finger and 


thumb, but tracked in lots of


dirt. The kitchen door


wobbled like a favorite


drunken uncle. Painstaking


annihilation of the spirit.


They grow by inclusion,


specifically, they grow by 


difference. The force that


through the sub-street draws


the skyscrapers which, as they


rise, fill with first-world


tourists watching television


from the edges of still-made


beds. It was a sacred space,


but nobody acted that way.


This was evident when the


film simply recast human-AI


love as human-human love


with no apologies. That’s the


nature of experience. He


picked up the nearest phone


to say it.




Bored faces stretch at the


edges. The self is discontent


and seeks diversion, or was


that completion, or was that


existence, in the other. My


friend had an exaggerated


sense of his own importance


at thirteen that was evident


still when I saw him, high


and on his way to a concert,


ten years later on the city bus


route my grandfather had


once driven. Stillness in the


air above acres and acres of


asphalt. Streets, of course,


don’t change, but are acted


upon. Absence is without


question absence, as fruit at


the end of its limb is distinctly


fruit. Wind streams shear off


the cloud head. Still, the red


pruning shears are not






The magician builds trust by


disbelief, acting the idiot


so that later, belief will come


easily when he manages basic


tasks, let alone magic. A


practiced composure, lined


like a formal shirt. But the


problem of perception is


perspective, permanent


condition of the brain in


language. On the path, ferns


grow rough and ragged,


disruptive to my stride. I


asked for a map and was


given a very old map.


But when he pointed into


the woods, I understood at


once that he meant to flee.


The way was buttery, it could


have been rain. I remember


mainly trees.


ANDY STALLINGS lives in Deerfield, MA, where he teaches English and poetry at Deerfield Academy. He taught for several years at Tulane University prior to that and has published a book of poems, To the Heart of the World, with Rescue Press (2014). He has three small children and coaches cross country.