Jeneva Burroughs Stone

Four Poems from Monster


One day my child stared, watching his brain chemicals dance. He then tried to crawl; I have never seen motion broken down into so many pieces, never seen a world shatter like ice.

(The Buddist nun who blessed him wrote
once how she held the begging bowl, realizing
her lesson: possibilities open when I let go of what
I think I want—the energy of grasping, a barrier.)

Pouring water into a broken bowl might resemble the act of loving: with each attempt to cover cracks, some slips away. The same might be said of mercy—that humankind can never hold enough, even in a million outstretched hands.

(We watched him drawn through the cold,
white O of the CT scan—that morning he’d
looked at arms and hands in turn before he
changed, expressions shaken silk across his face.)

The world can suddenly buckle and tear because nature tends toward destruction (earthquakes, floods, winds and snow). But I fear love will be the force that breaks me.

(As a child, I saw the aurora borealis,
pale green silk wavering in the dark, but
once it was the right kind of cold, the aurora
vibrant with fingers of pink, blue and white.)

I lived north then, where the first snow filled us with delight. Things happen for a reason, they say—the change of seasons, health and disease, our shifting climate, love and hope and the course of life.

Yet sometimes what happens breaks covenant with every explanation in its path, the heart ground slowly into rubble under advancing ice, while the aurora shimmers forth its false embrace.


And So Love Any Thing

first born the boy was beautiful
symmetrical in face and limbs body
perfect mechanism people stopped

admired liveliness and smile the way
his hands opened grasped legs kicked
and when he moved he moved more

ways than one the shapes a bright
container can contain they’d say or
some such of choice virtues but

then his mechanism broke quite
suddenly stalled stopped restarted
only to fail entirely as vehicles can do

parts in disrepair or in electronic
spark and shudder mutter of some
coding glitch the boy became a

thing word nonspecific for whatever
ceases function although his several
parts kept a pure repose despite

all that he was a martyr to a motion
not his own and still I knew him
lovely in his bones yes he taught me

touch love’s tender tenor skin to skin
wiring human hand to hand or face
electric leap offering grace although

surely love must be a thing because
I ask what thing is love? my heart’s tic toc
this synaptic shock: recognition


In which I am envious of the Eternal

(after Ezekiel 37)

The valley was full of bones
graves slit to release stillborn stones

of mothers and grandmothers

bones with bracelets of hair
released from sunken faces
of the dying

They stood at his command
the rumble and clack of these
thousand and under them ten thousand more


The Eternal was upon the room
a heavy cloth hanging
we waited for knotted fibers to drop

would he be as he was on the third day?
would we be as we were on the next?

how I had made flesh my own children
how I dressed them with lungs and entrails
how I gently covered their raw bones with
the clean snap of skin, yet

I could not put breath back


Life As We Know It

Best left to physicists’ eyes sharpened finer than nanometers:
atoms, particles, quantum leaps where materiality recedes

so that proportionate space though small may be infinite as
star distance marked by fusion clusters, the hydro-helium

macrocosm where our sun alight gives leave to plants’ silent
respiration in turn to us recidivists who breathe, our DNA

from comets, inorganic pyrimidine bases, angles symmetric
build us up like all the world from elements, blur of electrons

subatomic distances throughout which light still is constant
where being slings along the warp and weft of space-time,

relativity, to parse a world whose margin fades forever when we move
beyond empiric and yet we rest organic, measurable: nucleo-

tides tracing glassine curls the double helix with its ramrod
stairs, forms microcosmic or shades of cyto-stains blue red

or green, ACGT these four fates spell select or forfeit, spin
and cut unseen: destiny or chance mutation? de novo variant

will write a newer world, new chance at (r)evolution, our
oulipo novel a workshop of potential, no plot or form or

character to find that which we are, we are words entangled
in a nucleus, cell empire amidst chatter genetic, busy capitol:

around float organelles, mitochondria cytoplasmic galleons,
within row transport chains, electrons that cannot rest from

travel (oxidative phosphorylation): neg pos neg pos neg
(pause) complete circuit, a redox reaction in eternal redux

as though to breathe were life indeed, its generator, oxygen’s pow-
er sputters and that energy drives bodily fission and fusion

until death when we return to form a part of all that we have
met: elements, atoms, the quanta where materiality recedes

into uncertainty disorder and revision, particles super- or
sub-atomic, where little remains yet large in eternal redux


“And So Love Any Thing” includes samplings from Theodore Roethke’s poem, “I Knew a Woman” and John Peele’s poem, “What Thing is Love?” “Life as We Know It” contains samplings adapted from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses.” Not all quotations or adapted quotations are italicized.
“In which I am envious of the Eternal” first appeared in Pleiades; all poems reprinted from Monster (Phoenicia Publishing, 2016) by permission of the author.


Phoenicia Publishing is an independent press based in Montreal that publishes books on words and images that illuminate culture, spirit, and the human experience. A particular focus is on writing and art about travel between cultures—whether literally, through the lives of refugees, immigrants, and travelers, or more metaphorically and philosophically—with the goal of enlarging our understanding of one another through universal and particular experiences of change, displacement, disconnection, assimilation, sorrow, gratitude, longing and hope.



Jeneva Burroughs Stone is the author of Monster (Phoenicia Publishing 2016), an exploration in poetry and lyric prose of the effects DNA variation has had upon her family, especially her son Robert. Stone writes, "Our genetic fabric is monstrous—purposefully shape-shifting and awesome in its effects as it fulfills its evolutionary purpose, to make each of us unique." Stone's work has appeared in Poet Lore, Waxwing, jmww, Colorado Review, and New England Review. Her work in nonfiction has been honored with fellowships from the MacDowell and Millay Colonies. She and Robert live in Maryland. Her website: To read more by this author: "Through the Looking Glass in Iraq," Wartime Issue, Spring 2006.