Megan Grumbling

Two poems from Megan Grumbling’s Dwelling

followed by a note on the author

The Heist

Somebody’s made off with the neighbors’ stairs
outside my kitchen window, disappeared

them sometime in the dark between my gin
and bergamot: Beyond these same gold tongues

of tulips on my sill, no one arrives
at higher floors, each door a stranded I

in clapboard rows. For fortnights over bread
or figs I’d watched the late-shift men erect

right-angled stringers, risers, treads, each one
to bear a sole; gazed on as they’d become

themselves, the thing I know. But fast as thought,
irrevocably, now the stairs are not

there, are not any thing – and all at once
a whole array of structures is at risk

of going: Bottom step and middle shelf,
a scarlet wall between study and gulls,

the brick that girds warm windows every dusk.
A whole gestalt remains precarious

even once I’ve eavesdropped, heard the mystery
revealed in other neighbors’ midnight glee:

There’d been a skinflint landlady, her funds
withheld from surly builders, their revenge

done after hours. And strange delight: Relieved
of certain certainties, I love these thieves,

how they’ve not left a plank or screw of proof,
how that dame’s got to hire a whole new crew,

and how this time when I peer through the pane
at stairs appearing, nothing will be safe

from spiriting, the other side or this
of tulips: All we’ve built by mind and fist

is ravishingly stealable, in wait
of liberation. In these stairless days,

bewitched and open-mouthed, I dream things gone
at any slip or whim, and soon my own

larcenous gaze conspires to lift this flight
or that, street names, a certain phrase; to heist

even the sterling surety of does
or is, to leave those vowels vertiginous.



I fill my glass with fog, sometimes, the grace
of it diffuse: You, gaseous somewhere. Breath

is loss; confess: A palm before my face
grows damp with gone. It’s maybe in the wet

of some man’s retina, the water runs
once it has left, or in the perfect beads,

come morning, warm brown bread with cinnamon
leaves on a cobalt glaze. The pristine weep

of this iced gin I drain, I praise – a flow
through pirates, dodos, dinosaurs, all pores

perspiring steam of you, of us. And so
it goes, just borrowed. So the haunting, pour

or frost, as fluid as the thirst you’d slake,
a need now clear, now prism, now opaque.


Megan Grumbling’s collection Booker’s Point was awarded the 2015 Vassar Miller Prize for Poetry and the 2017 Maine Book Award for Poetry. Her work has been awarded the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Fellowship, the Robert Frost Foundation Award, a Hawthornden Fellowship at Hawthornden Castle, Scotland, and a St. Boltoph Emerging Artist Award, and has appeared in Poetry, Crazyhorse, The Iowa Review, Memorious, Best of the Net, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. She is librettist of the spoken opera Persephone in the Late Anthropocene, co-created with the late composer Denis Nye. She reviews theater for the Portland Phoenix, serves as poetry reviews editor for The Café Review, and teaches at Southern Maine Community College and the University of New England.

The Heist first appeared in Crazyhorse; Vapors first appeared in Baltimore Review.