Opportunities for Stasis

poetry, writingKay Ryan sits very near the top of contemporary poetry’s list of “must-read” writers. Sure, recommending a two-term former Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author should come as no surprise. But Ryan is also a poet to present to those who have no relationship with poetry.

Her work has many layers, and perhaps only seasoned readers will reach the deepest ones. Yet, the first surfaces of her poems are touchable. By no means facile, her work is quick to convey a mood. This might be due to the fact that, as she’s said in the past, her poems develop “the way an oyster does, with an aggravation.” And everyone can relate to aggravations. 

For me, the poem below conveys the suspense of a move. In a few lines, it narrates the small household chores one focuses on before a move so as to ignore the finality of leaving. One counts the forks and the spoons, but doesn’t envision getting the bed down the stairs.


There are charms
that forestall harm.
The house bristles
with opportunities
for stasis: refolding
the linens along
their creases, keeping
the spoons and chairs
in their right places.
Nobody needs to
witness one’s exquisite
care with the napkins
for the napkins
to have been the act
that made the fact

– posted by Ana Maria Caballero, Zeteo Contributing Writer


  1. William Eaton

    Reminds me of a line in a translation of Walter Benjamin’s memoir “Berlin Childhood Around 1900”: “As I gazed at the long, long rows of coffee spoons and knife rests, fruit knives and oyster forks, my pleasure in this abundance was tinged with anxiety, lest the guests we had invited would turn out to be identical to one another, like our cutlery.”


  2. Caterina Gironda

    Sounds to me like an abusive home. The narrator seeks control, to “forestall harm” or maintain “stasis”, by checking and re-checking that there is nothing out of place that could trigger another bout of rage. You are right about the layers certainly, thank you for sharing!


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