Lucky Alice

April 19, 2020

Alice, lucky at cards and unlucky at cats.
You’re a warning. You’re every girl stuck inside
a glass, unable to break free. They can shrink you
with a pill and swell you with a cake, they can break
your kneecaps with a croquet mallet and still they’ll tell
you to run run run. End up walking on eggshells.
Trust no white knight. You’re more than a talking flower,
more than a pawn or a pauper. Alice, please find
the courage to fling the whole game back in their faces,
to stand up and swing your arms wide and tear off
your apron. Tell them you’ll not be tethered, bear
your teeth and rage, your blonde hair flying a white flag.

Jeannine Hall Gailey

I started writing when I was about ten years old. I liked e.e. cummings, T.S. Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay. In college I discovered Sylvia Plath, Rita Dove, Dorianne Laux, Louise Gluck, and Denise Duhamel. I found my true home when I found out speculative poetry was a thing – thanks to editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, who included my work in their early anthology, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (and I will always be grateful!)…

I’ve always liked shorter forms – I’ve tried plays and fiction, I worked as a tech writer, copy editor and journalist, but I’ve always come back to poetry as my one true form…

The challenge is finding an audience. I’ve never had trouble writing – I tend to write more under stress, not less – but finding an audience for that work, that’s a little harder.

Jeannine Hall Gailey
Interviewed by Colleen Anderson 1st February 2020

Rod Serling would like you to consider the last man on earth.
He is the original smoking man,
in a dark suit, his cigarette’s curling trail a sinister signal.
How we become the monsters we fear.
The lonely alien lost on our home planet.
He knows the end of the world can be a playground
or a parable. He invites us into alternate dimensions.
We understand his clipped sombre tones take us on a tour
of gambling casinos in which we are always winning,
scary doors leading to nowhere, manicured lawns
weeping with dread. Airplanes carry gremlins on their wings,
and history is subject to change without notice.
If it could happen on Maple Street,
could it happen in your town, in your dreams?
Drunks become emperors. Beauties become beasts.
Every person born is condemned to die, he intones,
time and method to be determined.
We can race alone through space on a meteor,
perhaps prevent Pearl Harbour, or the earth sizzles
beneath an unrepentant sun. The end is always nigh
in Serling’s worlds, one push of a button, one minor twitch
away from melting before our eyes.

Jeannine Hall Gailey

Leggy, emerging from shadow in a hat and veil,
dress dark as blood – red silk, perhaps, or black velvet,
liquid in the chiaroscuro. A train station, and me with a mysterious
errand of vengeance, poison with a suitcase and a mission.
If you can, imagine my background as disheveled, neglected child
with ratty hair, a nefarious case of missing persons,
and all the scenes take place in a rainstorm.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the back of police cars,
I’m intimate with the make and model of the kind of gun
you’re holding in your hand right now. I wear gloves
even in warm weather. I’m really a cipher, a plot device,
a way to let the men be heroic or not in the inevitable last scene
where I throw myself in front of the bullet, or drive into the frozen
lake. Don’t be fooled by my satin glamour, the smoothness of my hair
and skin; it’s been a rough ride always assuming the mistaken identity,
the murderer’s weapon, the high heeled shoe that just catches the light.

Jeannine Hall Gailey

The body is a place of violence. Wolf teeth, amputated hands. Cover yourself with a cloak of leaves, a coat of a thousand furs, a paper dress. The dark forest has a code. The witch sometimes dispenses advice, sometimes eats you for dinner, sometimes turns your brother to stone.

You will become a canary in a castle, but you’ll learn plenty of songs. Little girl, watch out for old women and young men. If you don’t stay in your tower you’re bound for trouble. This too is code. Your body is the tower you long to escape,

and all the rotted fruit your babies. The bones in the forest your memories. The little birds bring you berries. The pebbles on the trail glow ghostly white.

Jeannine Hall Gailey

Fairy Tale – Redacted –

February 20, 2020

 

Once I was born in a place I do not recall.
The seashore, a peach blossom, an island of selkies.
Once I lost an arm and became part swan.
My brothers flew in circles in the sky.

My father the King lost my mother when I was young
and insisted on marrying me, so I fled
with only a fur coat, a gown of stars and a gown of sun,
as well as a magic ring. I hid inside tree trunks
and was taken in by monks. I didn’t speak of it
for years. The prince fell in love with my soup.
It held all my secrets. We wed in a shower of gold.

My first child was born in an egg. My second child
a mermaid. They were taken and raised in secret.
The prince left me and I became a dragon.
I sing at night, flying around the city.
They say rage, I say morning.
The castle walls are not enough to stop me.

Every fairy tale is a tale of murder, of incest,
of things no one wants to see. A mother-in-law
full of poison, a father unsafe. a family that leaves its babies
in the woods. The lesson is carved into trees,
turned into stories of saints, murmured into the ears
of children until they become like psalms,
the sound of the sea, the rush of wings,
reminding us of secrets, of things unseen.

Jeannine Hall Gaile

Ghosts

April 17, 2017

Ghosts sit in my mouth and sing.

Jeannine Hall Gailey
She Returns to the Floating World

Introduction to Witchcraft

December 9, 2016

woman-in-black

Always these young women in search of power,
their eyes rolled back in their heads, midriffs exposed.
Always some girl with a candle in a dark room –
and poof, her face brightens as she achieves
some moment of bliss. The raindrops around her freeze

in midair, the wolves stop baring their fangs, and for a moment
the young girl marvels at her own invincibility.
But then it’s fire, fire, always someone with a stake or a knife
ready to do her in. She is a spark about to go out.

Jeannine Hall Gailey

fairy

The body is a place of violence. Wolf teeth, amputated hands.
Cover yourself with a cloak of leaves, a coat of a thousand furs,
a paper dress. The dark forest has a code. The witch
sometimes dispenses advice, sometimes eats you for dinner,
sometimes turns your brother to stone.

You will become a canary in a castle, but you’ll learn plenty
of songs. Little girl, watch out for old women and young men.
If you don’t stay in your tower you’re bound for trouble.
This too is code. Your body is the tower you long to escape,
and all the rotted fruit your babies. The bones in the forest
your memories. The little birds bring you berries.
The pebbles on the trail glow ghostly white.

Jeannine Hall Gailey
(First appeared in Phantom Drift)

ELEMENTAL

February 8, 2016

crystals

The titanium staple
the surgeon left in your stomach
is just the beginning:
it’s the strontium-90 in your baby teeth,
in the bones of your parents.
(The dust of New Mexico, the echoes of
tests of implosion triggers
fifty, sixty years ago.)
Note the Americium in your smoke detector.
Note the rate of decay per second.
The trees drink Cesium click click click
The bees weave particles into their nests click click click
The traces around you
of other people’s experiments
linger in your veins, lungs, eggs
linger in your femur and kidney.
Carbon-based structures,
we absorb from the water, from the air,
from our food, from our walls
from our parks and fishing ponds.
We absorb and our body says:
it is good.

Jeannine Hall Gailey

(Jeannine Hall Gailey is a Seattle-area writer whose first book of poetry, Becoming the Villainess, was published by Steel Toe Books. Poems from the book have been on NPR’s The Writers Almanac, Verse Daily, and included in 2007’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her work has appeared in The Iowa Review, The Evansville Review, and The Columbia Poetry Review, among others. She’s an editorial consultant for Crab Creek Review and teaches with the Young Artists Project at Centrum. You can find her website here.)