Jordan Stempleman

May I Have Your Attention, Please?

For once there’s a tree over there 

that looks overexerted, yellowed 

in the distance, living proof 

there’s nothing so simple 

about a summer day. But I’m a child, a light 

sweater, a birthday party 

in a dark bedroom. 

At the magic show she says to the audience, 

I need someone to come up and volunteer 

to look tough, pretend 

to be a good listener. 

Of course this is shorthand for emotion.

And the shorthand for emotion 

is metaphor 

and the shorthand for metaphor is emotional 

distance, like the crying babysitter 

saying nevermind over and over 

to the sleeping baby.

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Jordan Stempleman is the author of eight collections of poetry including Wallop and No, Not Today (Magic Helicopter Press). He co-edits The Continental Review, serves as the faculty editor for Sprung Formal and curates A Common Sense Reading Series.