The Great Cosmic Hum


This ring that looks like a wedding band with the leaves circling it,
I bought on Oak Street in Chicago. I used to need so much to muddle
through a day and two blocks from that street where I bought it

is the doorway where I had the seizure, Jo-Anne, my summer roommate
from the Swiss boarding school, and the six-foot-four drug dealer I was
going out with (briefly) in Armani, watching.

I remember the hospital where they took me, the gunshot black boy
in the bed next to mine, metal swish of the closing white curtain.
Later two sets of female ankles underneath—his sister and mother?

Mother and grandmother? Lord, lord, they cried. And my father
and Elaine, his wife (also his secretary) arrived in their Burberry
raincoats. When the doctor released me into their care,

we all ate a quiet dignified dinner together—my father, Elaine, my room-
mate, the drug dealer and I—at the Mid-America Club, with a view of
the stockyards. And later that night, Jim Lotion (that was the dealer’s

name) in the bed next to me, his skin un-enterable and a loneliness
so great I’m surprised it didn’t shatter the ground-to-ceiling windows
in that 87th floor apartment full of freshly starched shirts,

typewriters, polished sailing trophies and the hum you could never
obliterate, molecules buzzing, hum of 87 floors of refrigerators cooling,
hum that keeps the building in the sky, hum that lulls your tongue back

into your mouth after a seizure, in time for a little Sauce Béarnaise and wine
(no wonder I had to buy myself things, which is how this all started) and
there was the ever-present seldom-noted view of Lake Michigan that night—

dark, moving, mysterious.

Shelley Stenhouse


Shelley Stenhouse won the Pavement Saw Press Award for her poetry collection, PANTS, and her latest collection, Impunity (NYQ Books), was selected by Huffington Post as one of “20 Of The Best Books From Independent Presses You Should Know About.” She received a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship, an Allen Ginsberg Award, was a National Poetry Series finalist, had two Pushcart prize nominations (one by Tony Hoagland), and three residencies at Yaddo Art Colony. Her poem, “Circling,” was quoted in A History of American Literature. She has read on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Her poetry and fiction have been published in New York Quarterly, Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, Nimrod International Journal, Margie, Third Coast, Enizagam, Brooklyn Rail, Mudfish, Washington Square, and Poetry After 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets (among others). Shelley lives in Greenwich Village and works one-on-one with writers.