poems by

Jill Stein

Poetry book, 72 pages, cover price $8

Release date: November 2013.

Part of the Author’s Choice Chapbook Series

JStein_PxJill Stein is a psychotherapist and mother of two children living in Princeton, New Jersey. Her work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Seattle Review, West Branch, MacGuffin, Pearl, US1 Worksheets, Poets On, Nebraska Review, Rattle and Soujourner among others. She has received three NJ State Council on the Arts Grants for poetry and her previous chapbook, Cautionary Tales, was published by Finishing Line Press. Ms. Stein is currently on the editorial staff of US 1 Worksheets. For the past ten years, she has experienced increasing mobility problems due to multiple sclerosis and has been incorporating this into her work.

In Steeplechase, the title poem in this collection, Jill Stein uses powerful metaphor to describe how few guideposts exist as we transit through life. With a robust voice and deft pen, Jill considers how first as children we learn to wrest power from others, affirm what we know to be true, and recognize bias we can’t change, and later on, as in Mid-Life, establish balance between the needs of our children and our aging parents and still not lose ourselves. Burdened by a debilitating condition, Jill never succumbs to pity, but demands of us as readers to envision a world seen through her eyes: how she meets her mother’s decline into Alzheimer’s with a certain inevitability and yes, even humor; and recognizes, with regard to her condition, how she must learn to…thread myself across the knife edge of this moment, the green on every side.

Nancy Scott, Managing Editor of U.S.1 Worksheets



There in the evening heat
in that tropical hum
the mean dogs gathered in a semi-circle
snarling at the small black one
who swung his head from left to right
as if he might discover
somebody who pitied him.
I begged my father
who still had the power
to erase all sorrows
to save him from the rest.
And he, knowing he still had this power
and treasuring it like a secret silver star
locked next to his heart
leaped into the fray
with a stick and a stone
until the mean dogs turned and ran
down the empty road
like a viscous clot of badness
washing away. And my mother,
her face contorted, whirled around to me
and asked how I could send my gentle father
into danger, my good father
who could not say no to me
and I grew mangy along my back,
my teeth lengthened and I knew
I was the evilest of those dogs,
and the blood of the gentlest one
dripped from my lips.




The clowns are waiting there.
They hit you with their plastic bats
as you enter the revolving tunnel,
and spill into the room
of softly whirring swings,
spinning children,
their hair flying,
everyone strangely quiet as if hypnotized
circling in air.
This could be what it’s like
once you’re dead,
all magic,
not the way my father says,
just nothing,
how it was before you’re born.
No, that can’t be.
I’m tearing down the giant slide so fast
I don’t feel the burn
until I see blisters on my thighs.
No matter,
there are horses on the metal track
and we’re moving through the archway
into blinding light
and ocean air,
the parachute jump, a great omniscient god above,
we’re off and running,
our horses screeching on the rails,
metal on metal,
were screaming as we head out
to eternity.




The slow movement of the violin concerto
loops in her dim curtained space.
Her bulging eye turned toward me,
fixes me in its sights—
something familiar, but a color I don’t recognize
like dirty sea glass, green with flecks of brown.

I’m diving in to find a sliver of my mother
that might come up to meet me
like currents from the bottom of the lake in Danbury
where she and I swam out to tangled lily pads,
when I realize she’s blind.

I look to the other eye for reassurance—
it’s shut. She’s sleeping peacefully
as if she’s half stunned by the approach,
and half already gone.
I’m counting seconds between breaths
holding her feather-light hand beneath the sheet.

The nurse is telling me to talk to her
about good memories,
and I don’t say
my mother told me children aren’t worth it,
that they are a bitter disappointment.
I don’t tell my mother that I know
that the whole business was beyond her
and that even her loud proclamation of regrets
were lies.

Instead, I’m telling her,
You can let go if you want to
better to relax in the dark warmth
which seems to start her shuddering a bit
as if I’ve reeled her back from far away
with this intrusion,
and she needs to set me straight—
there’s a faint flickering as
she manages to shake her head
and offer up her final No.

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