Laura Quinney







The dishwasher has broken

and flooded the kitchen floor.

Already twenty years 

with children have

flashed away like a hummingbird.



In the distance

the road dwindles

and little by little

the houses the cars

the lawns the signs

and the curb too

fall away and then

the road is dirt

and even the trees

give out and there is

just some stubble 

and bald earth beside 

the road contracting

into the horizon


near nothingness.



A Tale of Two Tales


In Cinderella

at the touch of the fairy

godmother’s wand

ordinary things spring up

into bedazzling forms

for a night:

the ragged shift 

becomes a white ballgown

The fat pumpkin 

is a rounded coach 

the clogs are now

glass slippers.


In our life it is

the other way around

it is the splendor

we start with and when

the spell of inexperience 

gives way 

we see we have lived

the poor girl’s measure


our thrilling oracles

sunk in their homely kinds. 




Unspoken Words


What did I think?  

That after this life

would come another

just like it 

and leisure to say

what I did not say here?


I thought there was

time after the time 

passed and words

after the words meant.


When I was alone

with the unheard

it fell away


and it took

into its chasm

what had been

along with what had not.


The Breath of Others


Out of the murk of so much

temporal detritus, voices

speak words sharp in my memory,

on indifferent subjects.  

They come swimming up to me, 

those ephemeral words

that were like a touch,  

good as any love.



End of Lockdown


My tsundoku*

is still as tall

as I am.



But those were not

the books 

I actually read.


End of the pause,

end of the long



the rounds

of customary life.


Now the brood

will scatter,

they go where

they were

meant to have been.

You, take up your satchel

and your staff.


*tsundoku: the pile of books by your bed you intend to read

Laura Quinney is Professor of English at Brandeis University where she teaches Romanticism, poetry and poetics, and philosophical approaches to literature. She's author of Literary Power and the Criteria of Truth, The Poetics of Disappointment, and William Blake on Self and Soul, as well as two books of poetry, Corridor and New Ghosts. She is currently writing a book on the subject of "self-haunting."