What-or-Who? by Carol A. Stephen (MY FRONT DOOR Series)

My poem What-or-Who? in the Silver Birch Press series My Front Door, appears today on their site. Thank you, Silver Birch Press!

Silver Birch Press

by Carol A. Stephen

A simple knock at the front door
in a tempo of anybody-home?
segues to an urgency of fist
against steel, a tremor of glass,
an I-know-you’re-in-there! pounding.

I stop halfway down the stairs, curiosity
elbowed away by fear of what-I’ll-find
when I turn the handle, release the lock—
I tiptoe over tiles, slide slowly into
the windowed room beside the door,
turn louvered blinds to crack daylight:
what-or-who is hammering outside?

I see only a cast shadow, someone standing
too close to the door to be seen.
A long-dead-grandmother voice whispers
Never open the door to strangers.

 I tremble behind concealing blinds
in a sweat of what-comes-next
remembering the family rules:

Don’t ever trust other women.
Pretend that you’re not home, and—sssshhh!
Never tell your mother grandma’s secrets.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: What-or-Who? was inspired by a childhood memory of my grandmother, who…

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NaPoWriMo April 3 2018 Two Sylvias Press Challenge

Today’s Two Sylvias Prompt calls for various things to appear in the poem including a well known college, an old typewriter, a vintage album. And a few more items. Here’s my attempt.


April 3. In a few days, I’ll be seventy-one.


Still a poet in a small Ontario town.
I remember my first poem written
on a green Olivetti, circa 1960,
(the same kind Leonard Cohen used)
long before typing lessons on an IBM Selectric
with its blank keys and cranky hum.

The Olivetti travelled with me when
I went to U of T, sat centred on my desk
near the radio, blaring tunes from
Rubber Soul, or R&B from Otis Redding.

As I studied I fingered a half-heart on
a chain around my neck, the other half
kept by my steady guy.
As each memory flickers past,

I glance outside, eyes light on the second
spring robin, perched on a speed limit sign across
the street, 40 km limit. No-one pays attention
to the bird or the sign.

A man down the street wields a claw
hammer, forces a For Sale sign
into the still-frozen ground.
A sure sign it must be spring.

Carol A Stephen April 3, 2018

The Last Three Stones of January, 2016


Small Stones for Jan. 29 through 31, 2016


Jan. 29 2016

I wake to the ubiquitous white blanket, white page, unmarred

by footprint or by word. My eyes crave a prism, the sparkle

of diamonds in sunlight, they’d even settle for sunbeams passing

through white sapphire, through crystal, rhinestone, even cut glass,

anything but this flat white under grey sky that greets

morning upon morning.



Jan. 30 2016

The zodiac signs as shown in a 16th-century wo...

zodiac signs in a 16th-century woodcut ( Wikipedia)

Yesterday, a call-in show. Today, a blog post,

both focus energy on questions of astrology and how

some days our lives attune to messages from the stars, while

other times nothing goes according to the plan.

Both radio and blog remind me there is more to it

than merely sun sign. The planets, too, rise and recede,

and what moon sign held sway at the hour we arrived?

How much weight to give such influences, when

as a woman, I know the moon-tide’s cycles hold sway

just as the moon affects the high and low tides of the sea.

And I wonder how the elements of fire, water, earth and air

reveal themselves in the twelve signs of the zodiac.

Aries, the Ram

Aries, the Ram ( Wikipedia)

How does the Ram, a creature of the earth, manifest itself

instead as Fire? How is the Water-bearer, Aquarius a being of Air?

Aquarius, the water-bearer

Aquarius, the water-bearer (Wikipedia)

And how much weight does any of it have on the story of my life?







Jan. 31 2016

English: Animated image of Earth rotating.

English: Animated image of Earth rotating. (Wikipedia)

While we sleep, the Earth rotates east

In January the obliquity of the ecliptic offers days

where darkness falls too soon. It’s an illusion that

days grow shorter as we age: in truth a century ago

Earth’s time to complete its daily rotation 1.7 milliseconds

shorter than today.  And time still flies.  Already,

I have entered February, working on the news for

the coming fortnight. Already, I have thought past

Valentine’s Day, contemplated the coming of March

and its changeability from lamb into lion or lion into lamb.

I am not wishing the days by, although I long for

the return of green. With it will come another birthday.

If I might wish for anything, it is to stop counting.

The time is short - geograph.org.uk - 695749

The time is short – geograph.org.uk – 695749 (Photo credit Keith Edkins: Wikipedia) http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/695749


Small Stones for Week 4 January 22 through 28, 2016

black_stones_and_leaves_stock_photo_170410Still struggling with finding inspiration, making me realize again what a great tool it is to have a source of daily writings to respond with. I admit sometimes wondering why I continue but the practice eventually has its benefits as daily writing becomes a part of every day routine. Or at least, that is my intention.



Small Stones for January 22 through 28, 2016

Jan. 22 2016

Weekly I vow to tidy up my office, sort papers,
file it all, making room for those projects that are active
and the ones still forming in my mind, I promise

Carol’s Desk

my desktop will be clear, pristine, holding only
the one file I’m working on at the moment. And,
to sort through my baskets, downsizing, excavating,

new archaeological digs for the treasure of forgotten poems.
I will spray them, and polish them, put them up for adoption,
submitting or uniting them in a marriage of manuscript.

But each week, in the evenings, after lights out, after bedtime,
the imps and the gremlins tiptoe softly to the study, slyly open
every drawer, and pull it all back out again, creating chaos once more.

Jan. 23 2016

Tojo makes a nest in my workbag

Tojo makes a nest in my workbag

There is a furry demon who lives inside my house.
He’s an excavator, an inquisitor, always got to know
what lurks inside the waste bin, what lies behind a door,
what’s under the green blanket, when he pulls it to the floor.

Paper on the table is a toy for him to dance,
he pulls it one way, then the other, as if in a trance
the movement soothes some torment, relieves boredom,
stuff like that. He’s a demon, that Tojo, my Siamese cat.

Jan. 24 2016

Some days there are no voices
but my own. Sunday and the world is remote
in its cold white, but here, just the cat and I
He with his own pursuits: sleep, eat, chase shadows
while I keep company with white pages, hoping
that words will come from within to populate
the blank screen like a giant eye with its white glare


And the cat discovers his other game, to create
a cat-shaped hole in the face of such white glowering
and he will sit there, blocking menus, hiding icons until

the music starts or voices raise from the speakers
It hurts his ears or wounds his pride, or perhaps his dignified
pose as porcelain cat, and he exits, stage right, tail flourishing.

Jan. 25 2016

the therapist kneads and prods the places
in my back, asking if it hurts, and where it wasn’t,
it surely is as she pokes her fingers deep into the knots
in muscles, stiff and tight from sitting too long
not working on those stretches and extensions

Jan. 26 2016

I plan each morning to spend time at keyboard
immersed in new poems or
fine-tuning the old, carving the crispness
into each line, or carving out the flab
of wording that takes the long way round.

Instead, I bog down early in the Ethernet gab
the flow of spam, phishing, and all those newsletters
I had to sign up for, so interesting did they seem
at the time, but now just another way
to procrastinate and postpone that moment when
another day begins with not much to say.

Jan. 27 2016

Languishing on desk top, a book of days,
and one of writing dangerous things an entire year
become paperweights that bow down the inbasket
its sturdy plastic not quite up to the chore
of supporting files on workshops, files of poems for rewrite,
a calendar, an empty notebook, and all of my intentions.

Jan. 28 2016


Last day of the fourth week of January
another week of Small Stones, each week in its own
figurative cairn, each Stone stacked carefully
on the growing pile of ruminations on
the day-to-day inconsequential, small confessions
of the large intentions that fizzle into little progress
but lit here and there the occasional flash
of self-insight, small breakthroughs to spur the coming months.