Ryann Stevenson

Insensible Losses

Sometimes, my grandmother sees shadows.

She isn't sure what's real

and what's a smoky outline of the forgotten.

When people think of blindness

they close their eyes. Think of the dark.

But hers is white, it's the color of no color,

and all the frequencies of visible light.

It was given to her with a spoonful of sugar.

The defective pills that made her.

There was once the dark tuft

of her daughter’s newborn hair,

the high shrug of mountains,

the wires through which they fed electricity

into the brain—and then everything left, like water leaves the body

without our knowing, like California,

like the something else that leaves

as heroin enters. I remember

few things: tiny flowers

on the knobs of the dresser drawer,

the strangeness of strangers, my mother

miscarrying. Innocence, then

virginity, that little girl

on the boardwalk, my hair

color, my hair, my resistance.

Last night I dreamed of all the Earths

I use up—all four of them.

They were sad and scared and exhausted.

I tried to find a chair. 

We were inside the house

that consumed Goldilocks, inside everything

my grandmother never saw

when she could still see. 

Sometimes she looks

straight at me or just beyond

at my sister turning the camera onto herself,

pressing her lips together. I watch

my grandmother wet her cracked lips.

She doesn't get to choose when:

she's always having her most private moment

with the whole world.


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Ryann Stevenson's poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from The Adroit Journal, American Letters & Commentary, Blunderbuss Magazine, Columbia Poetry Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Linebreak, and Pinwheel Journal. She is the Chapbook Series Editor at Phantom Books, and co-curate's Phantom's Brooklyn-based reading series, EMPIRE.