Jordan Stempleman (Kansas, USA): from Awfully

from Afully


I am Jim.
I am terribly worried

in the unease
of fact. I often

find myself thinking,
minus breathing, minus temperature,

minus, in addition,
or perfectly involved, there

we all grew,
there, all still grows.

I often feel
left out. I know,

sure, after time,
it’s only a matter

of time before
I, or someone else

lays down blanket
by the bush, and

calls out, hey,
fatboy, you’re still growing—

you still grow
and gain, happily or

tearfully as you
must—so she wept,

so we weep
for you, as surely

as you noticed
us, we too notice

you. It’s difficult,
I know. I’m Jim,

Jim can’t control
himself. This is why

Marie began quoting
from Boyle’s General History

of Air
, then
she truly cried enough

for all things
solid, and all things

skinned. And fatboy
was no longer there.


It was then,
when I first met

Marie, and she
loved how often, truly

often, I’d exclaim
goddamnit after I thought

things weren’t going
my way, that she

knew how Jim
was just being Jim.

I’m so scared
of all known anger,

any unreasonable way
of response, but she

isn’t. Marie loves
what may happen next.

I love Marie.
This is not according

to plan. This
is by no means

to avoid suffering.
This is what happens

when many times
continue to add up

and go well
for a long time.

I’d read somewhere,
there’s such a thing

as cloth calendars.
Though, I’ve never seen

a cloth calendar
before in my life,

and I’m thinking,
these soft, well-built calendars

are just right
for living. They do

what Marie sometimes
does with memories: freezes

the impossibly heavy
things that they are

into flexible, visual
encounters, that are right,

right for keeping.
I just get angry

with my memories
since they don’t do

what I want
or smell at all

how they did
when time was waiting

to claim them.
I once read, somewhere,

all self importance
comes from our memories,

and so, yes,
I became terrified, then

angry, so angry.
I began to imagine

a world without
the Greeks, or anyone

who so wanted
original realities to remember

their former lives.
What? But my childhood,

overcoming death, this
attitude I have, this

woman I’ll soon
forget. I’m so insensitive

to my wondering
of where we’ve been,

I tell Marie.
She knows. She knows.


In random order
there was being hired

by associates, birth,
unusual intensity, and another

sun going down.
I said to Marie,

it is impossible
to tell which form

got to me
first. I truly believe

though, quietly, since
I don’t yet truly

believe, that intensity,
some very unusual intensity

is to blame.
She then got up

from her chair,
opened up the door,

the front door,
walked out, then closed

the door, then
waited a few minutes

before coming back
in and sitting down.

I can’t believe
how you’ve changed, really

changed, she said.
While I was gone,

tell me, what
did you settle for?

Change, I said.
And the impersonal way

I can be
with myself, really impersonal.

Then some imagining,
then more and more

of my quiet.
There is nothing I

can think of
like the panic, my

panic, that grows
so fondly in quiet.


Very few people
know me as Jim.

It’s so puzzling.
Often, when I’m out

eating somewhere, or
shopping with Marie, someone

will approach me
and say, hey buddy,

whendyoustop returning mycalls?
I don’t make calls,

I tell them.
My name’s Jim, not

whatever you said.
Which comes out wrong

all the time,
so then I smile

embarrassingly, more embarrassingly
than I mean to

to make up
for being a stranger.

Marie keeps insisting
this makes things worse,

perhaps by pretending,
just pretending a little,

for a moment,
that I knew them,

or wanted to,
I could make friends

with some person
that has lost someone

they really hope
to find. But awkwardness

is so standard
in such a simple

life. In strangeness,
alone, or with Marie,

I feel fine.
But when I’m mistaken

for someone’s life
that I took nothing

from, or gave
nothing to, I’m stranded

to remember who
I might possibly be.

© Jordan Stempleman 2009