Storybook Meditatio

By Stephen Massimilla



A frost-like pale light had gathered overnight.

The gloom goddess was sad to say she was not so sorry.


Leaning like the long line of a fork (not spooning; poor),

she prickled her skirt, her dish, the edge of one of many


unknowns, longing to taste the new known. She’d read Invisible Girl

in Wells’s invisible world, bracketed between two hounds


in windows, the climates of tomorrow. Down came drams

of white ash, touched by a cliché about drunks in the oaks.


A breath of cold cloud-swell, more lonely, more far-off

than a perception of sleep, faintly irised.




What of Hans’ fairy swan, the frill of the surf on her shoulders?




Now, this year, she’d simply be deceptive if she said she wasn’t

the loveliest. Or if she wasn’t dressed in Moon.


Perfectly emerged from a new unknown, her ball gown

falling, leaving the long bare life she thought she knew.


A cloak as of coal, of ocean overhead. A wind-tap, a clock,

a way of promising. A way of pronouncing from the inside.


And under the wintry limbs of the terrace: Priests are facts

under whose gazes one knows what not to think.


And thinks without knowing, under oaken eyes,

how the night has gone on. Like a sea, a sea unleashed.



Stephen Massimilla is a poet, critic and painter. His collection Forty Floors from Yesterday received the Sonia Raiziss-Giop Bordighera Prize; his sonnet sequence Later on Aiaia received the Grolier Poetry Prize; and his volume Almost a Second Thoughtwas runner-up for the National Poetry Book Contest judged by X.J. Kennedy. Other awards include a Van Renssalaer Prize, an Academy of American Poets Prize, and two Pushcart nominations. Massimilla has new work in AGNI, Atlanta Review, Barrow Street, Chelsea, The Colorado Review, Confrontation, Denver Quarterly, Eleven Eleven, The Greensboro Review, Gulf Stream,Provincetown Arts, Quarterly West, The Southern Review,, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA and a Ph.D. from Columbia University, where he teaches classics and modernist literature. Website:

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