November 8, 2016

Meryl Stratford


after Wallace Stevens, “The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm”

Silence can be a plan
rigorously executed
—Adrienne Rich

Your father said it had to be a Democrat
but I liked Eisenhower, the look of him,
what he did during the war.
Your father was so sure of everything.
How could I be sure of anything,
knowing my vote would cancel his
or double it? It wasn’t worth the argument.
Every day we read the headlines.
There was a war going on,
but not in my house.

The house was mine, and he was my honored guest—
hot meals on the table, clean sheets on the bed.
The house was quiet and we were calm.
Everything outside was his, the car, the job,
political opinions. We divided the garden.
He planted the vegetables, and I grew the flowers,
lilies of the valley, tiny blood-red roses.
The house was quiet because it had to be.
The quiet was part of its meaning.

All the time I was making beds and doing dishes
I kept telling myself stories.
Imagine—a woman in the White House!
He never thought he’d live to see
a man on the moon.

Poets Respond
November 8, 2016

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Meryl Stratford: “My mother never voted and she’s no longer here to explain. Two news stories started me thinking: a local woman, 100 years old—about the age my mother would be if she were alive—born before women had the right to vote, casting a vote for Hillary; and 41% of people not supporting the same candidate as their spouse have had an argument about it.”

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July 31, 2016

Meryl Stratford


They lost their glass slippers on the palace steps.
They saw visions of martyrs on stained-glass windows.

They imagined a different world beyond the looking-glass.
They crossed the ocean in a glass-bottom boat.

They struggled up the slopes of a slippery glass mountain.
No one warned them about the glass cliff.

They spent a lifetime cleaning sliding-glass doors.
They examined their glass, half empty, half full.

They threw rock concerts in their mothers’ glass houses.
Their daughters crashed through the highest glass ceiling.

Poets Respond
July 31, 2016

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Meryl Stratford: “Will we finally break through the world’s most visible glass ceiling?”

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April 19, 2015

Meryl Stratford


No news is good news, or so it was
for the horseshoe crab, four hundred fifty
million years, while the dinosaurs came

and then went. Now they’re making the news:
how we use them as bait, grind them up
for fertilizer, destroy their habitat,

but their ancient blood detects endotoxins,
makes possible our flu shots,
pacemakers, and hip joint replacements.

We are the aliens, newly arrived
on earth with our gleaming technology,
capturing them for our laboratories

where white-coated technicians
drain that precious blue blood.
Returned to the ocean, some survive the encounter.

There is a mystery in their mating,
something essential in the sand;
we don’t know what it is nor how

they know it’s there. He comes ashore
at high tide when the moon is full
and waits for her, clings to her

while she lays her many eggs. The ocean
and the moonlight are one. The ocean and the moonlight
and the horseshoe crabs are one. They are

Aphrodite’s children, spawned
at the dawn of our world when the goddess of love
rose, naked, from foam on the sea.

Poets Respond
April 19, 2015

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Meryl Stratford: “With thoughts of Earth Day, April 22: Sometimes you’ll find, in an inconspicuous place in the paper, news of a scientific report; such stories interrupt our 24/7 cycle to tell us about events happening on a different time scale. This week’s story (‘Horseshoe crab faces threats from pollution, development‘) is another illustration of what we are doing to this planet, endangering a creature that has thrived here for so very long.”

Note: This poem has been published exclusively online as part of a project in which poets respond to current events. A poem written within the last week about an event that occurred within the last week will appear every Sunday at Our only criterion for selection is the quality of the poem, not its editorial position; any opinions expressed are solely those of the poet and do not necessarily reflect those of Rattle’s editors. To read poems from past weeks, visit the Poets Respond page. Interact on our Facebook group. To have a poem considered for next week’s posting, submit it here before midnight Friday PST.

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