Stacy Gnall

Stacy Gnall is the author of Heart First into the Forest (Alice James Books, 2011). She earned her undergraduate degree at Sarah Lawrence College and her MFA at the University of Alabama, and she is currently pursuing her PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. Her work has previously appeared in The Cincinnati Review, The Florida Review, The Gettysburg Review, Indiana Review, The Laurel Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, she now lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Damsel. Current projects include a series of poems about costume history and the Twilight Zone and critical work on the theme of human-animal transformation in literature and film. David St. John has written,“Stacy Gnall’s brilliant debut collection, Heart First Into the Forest, explores those timeless yet inexplicable mysteries of worldly (and some otherworldly) transformations as they first emerge and then—all too often—continue to haunt our lives. These poems echo the childhood fears and adolescent fevers stoked by both the growing knowledge of sexuality and the violence we find erupting in fable and fairy tale. With her exquisite lyric delicacy, Stacy Gnall brings a constant music and a candid, luminous perspective to every poem. This is a forest whose intricate darkness—whether of family or desire, the poet knows we will inevitably be shown over and over again. It is a darkness lit, of course, only by the heart.”


The Insecticide in Him

Leaning against the stubborn shed, my brother looks right
and sinister with his shirt untucked.
He is a hopscotch-skip away,
speculating what a second tongue tastes like, the contents
of a schoolgirl’s skirt, about babies: how one plus one makes three.
He clacks his gum, his tongue a pin in a pink balloon.
With a start, he pulls a firefly from the marmalade jar,
a pulse of magic and flint blaring
Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! on his knuckle.

In this light, he looks more like an x-ray of a boy.
He stares square into the insect glow, twists its wings and tosses them back
into the air, snaps his fist closed and holds its half-beam body to my nose
so I can see: its insides are a contortionist’s kiss, the sorry smell of blood and iron.
He says witches live in their guts.
He is always teaching me these things, like how the business
section makes the best-floating boats, and some stars even wear belts.
How when the man comes home to the wife, he fits perfectly inside.

From a Dance Manual
for my father

Treat me nice, treat me good, treat me like you really should.
Cause I’m not made of wood. And I don’t have a wooden heart.
Elvis Presley

Snip the cranky thing from its crib.
Rest its potato-scented head against your lapel

and carry its teacup weight, the world’s
youngest antique in your arms.

Then permit the rug your promenade.
Follow imagined dance-map feet.

Behändel sie gut.

Sing, scavenger of the lowest notes.
Make your way through the German verse,

that bit of violence in the back of your throat.
Behändel sie gut, Behändel sie gut.

On TV, the second shuttle’s success.
Outside, the ambient logic of snow.
You’ve lost your job. You dance.

Past the mantel’s burden, past each bashful knick-knack.
Hum, and she will grow to be gruff enough.

Past the blue-gray glances from the photographs.
Bellow, and she will be burr fierce. Coo.

Past the wreath, the hearth, the paisleys in their frenzy
on the ironing board, sway.

And she will chase ghosts and wolves away.
Twist, and men will treat her well. Whirl.

Past the patience of the piebald hobbyhorse,
treat her good, treat her good.

Sing, and the thing will fossilize.
Dance, and it will petrify.
Her heart will be a beating bit of bark.

Behändel sie gut.
Treat her good, and it will turn into wood.

© 2013 Stacy Gnall
Stacy Gnall was a Featured Poet who read her poetry at the September 2013 Second Sunday Poetry Series