Jeannine Hall Gailey

Shorting Out*

Listen to the audio version read by Ann E. Wallace.

Like a radio   some of my connections have gone bad    fizzled
zapped and my legs wonít move    in the direction I tell them
and sometimes when I mean to say "milk" I say "snow"
     if I want "hairbrush" I ask for "pomegranate"
It scares me    these white holes in my brain
where art or music might have been maybe peopleís faces
     maybe whole sections of memory
Iíve studied circuits    electric impulse      the current flows and then it s t op s
creating gaps   shorting out
erasing memory      erasing impulse or     momentum or motion detection
I put my foot down graceful as a dancer and the bones crack and collapse
my hands shake when I try to hold a pencil
at the edge of the electricity that is diminishing my neural network
canít preserve what I remember    the stumble     the forgetting
the wrong word in  my mouth
when I try to say     your name

* * *


Listen to the audio version read by Ann E. Wallace.

Copper burns green. Sodium yellow,
strontium red. Watch the flaming lights
that blaze across your skies, America –
there are burning satellites
even now being swallowed by your horizon,
the detritus of space programs long defunct,
the hollowed masterpieces of dead scientists.
Someone is lying on a grassy hill,
counting shooting stars,
wondering what happens
when they hit the ground.

In my back yard, they lit cesium
to measure the glow.
Hold it in your hand:
foxfire, wormwood, glow worm.
Cesium lights the rain,
absorbed in the skin,
unstable, unstable
dancing away, ticking away
in bones, fingernails, brain.
Sick burns through, burns blue.


"Shorting Out" and "Cesium Burns Blue" are from the author's books Field Guide to the End of the World and The Robot Scientist's Daughter, respectively.


Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She's the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientistís Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA's Elgin Award. Sheís also the author of PR for Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity and Marketing. Her work appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, Notre Dame Review and Prairie Schooner. Her web site is Twitter and Instagram: @webbish6.