Hi. I'm Johnny Cash, my boyfriend says when I pick up the phone.
I squeal. I shiver. I sit by a fire I can't figure out how to turn on. A female cardinal beats her head against the glass until I rise.
Outside it's Ohio. It's November-town, brown and yellow, breath-sucking cold.
I have a new e-mail address.
I'll do my best to write back. If you would like to know when I have a poem, story, or essay out in a magazine, or when I'm doing a reading or appearance, send an e-mail with “mailing list” as the subject.
Lately, there hasn't been much. I took last year off. I spent it teaching, and falling in love, and eating Chinese food, and looking for a job, and making new friends, and writing a novel, which was quite enough, thank you.
Thanks to Emily, some of my poems may now be included in an anthology for high school students (thanks, Emily!). The prospect is thrilling. Because I don't write poems for professors. Because I don't write poems for other poets. Because I want high school students to read my work more than anyone else in the world, except maybe junior high students.
I think of my junior high and high school English textbooks. I read them straight through, dog edges cornered with brown. It would be college before a teacher would not yell at me: stop reading ahead!. I flipped to the back and read the writers' biographies. How long ago they had lived, how much they had loved, how they had gone to school, and had children, and had failures before success, and then failures after success, and then success again shortly before death, and then death in London and Chicago and Bangor and Pittsburgh on green velvet couches with loved ones around.
My real bio says: Alison Stine is the author of ______ ( ____ University Press, 200_). Her ____s have appeared in _____, ______, _______, and elsewhere, and have twice been________for a ______ . She is presently a ________ at ______ , where she lives with her_________.
That last blank would be piano, in case you were wondering.
That's safe, that's appropriate, that's right.
But what is real? What really happened outside of that, outside of the dates, the titles, the universities, the press? What did I do?
Alison Stine is the author of her life, although it hasn't always felt that way. She secretly loves her wild hair. She hated high school and raisins. She prefers cheap beer. She prefers skirts and heels. She can't hear you if you sit there. She has eaten a poison apple. She has walked around the world in iron shoes. She was once under the spell of the white witch. She was once under the spell of the goblin king. She was once under the spell of the prince in black. He walked away with her blood still on him. She left her home and her home. She gave away her first born child. She gave away her long wild hair. She gave away her fins and her wings and her voice, then she realized:
if she could not swim, she would walk. If she could not speak, she would sing, she would sing. She would learn his name.
The bridge knows. The birds know. The ground knows. And the fields, oh the fields were born knowing. How to defeat the dark, the cold, the doubt creeping like frost over corn. Why didn't they tell her, why didn't they warn her, stop her? They saw her go. They only wavered.
She would have to find out for herself, underground.