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                  The Waterfall


                  Thomas stood gaping

                at the falls—to be that tall,

                    to be that glossy gush, to be

                 the white rush of sound, the colossal fall,

                     to be the thready edges spilling down

                 a dripping face of moss,

                    and he closed his eyes,

                      spread his arms like wings,

                  felt the freezing mist sting

              his face like prickled stars,

                   felt the roar clog his ears,

                      and he became a mollusk

                        inside a shell,

                  body curled

                     against glossy lips,

                           his whole existence the raging

                    blast of ocean against his skin,

                  and the sound inside him

                             like resounding bells,

                      like the symphony loud, loud, loud,

                      violins and cellos, a cascade

                           of fingers across piano,

                     until every cell of his skin was sound,

                              and a taste of grass, of icy stones,

                        and the taste of glass when he ran

                                    his tongue across the window pane,

                              and now the fragrance of snow,

                                 to be fed by snow, to be fed

                                       by a pure sapphire spring,

                                        to be rushing home to the ocean,

                                    gooseflesh rising on his arms,

                             his hair and skin pearled

                            in rainbow spray, he was a fish,

                              he was a snowflake, he was the river,

                            he was the fall, the gulp, the silver

                          water sinking, he was the reckless

                                shatter and shimmer,

                              deafened by his own voice singing.

This poem first appeared in Plume Poetry 9  and was selected by Utah Poet Laureate Paisley Rekdal to be the featured poem on April 2, 2021 for The Utah Poetry Festival. To see Shanan perform "The Waterfall," click here.




You, who just to feel your falling, fell,

unlocked your eyes to splendid shame.       

You who crave delicious hell


fell to feel the spark in every cell,   

shock of knowing shimmers your brain.

You, who just to feel your falling fell


into silence. Aching tongue of bell   

hungry to be wrung, to sound your name.                              

You who crave delicious hell


yearn for serpents, toxic tonics they sell,

their promise to feed, to satiate pain.

You, who just to feel your falling fell                    


into love, its incinerating spell,                                  

its sad hiss of ashes after the flame. 

You—you crave delicious hell;


the thrill of bitter bliss propels

you to part your lips, taste, relish blame.

You who crave delicious hell.

You, who just to feel your falling, fell.

This poem appears in Shanan's collection Pretty Marrow and was the May 2015 Bite-Sized Poem for Utah Division of Arts and Museums. To watch Shanan perform "Reasons," click here.


Both Sides of the Window


The story is a window, and light slides

its eyes through the glass. Little prickles

of time, the squeak of a finger, smudging

its oily print. Outside, the sky darkens         

like a bruise. The blue fragrance of spring

snow. Red Riding Hood is on both sides

of the window. Outside, the sky hums

a golden light.  The night will be unbearably

cold. If the story goes on forever, it will always

end. Wolf, ulfe, lupine, lupus: the slippery        

animal of time. Wolf stretches long                    

and harmless in a patch of sun, then winds

himself in a cocoon of glass. He waits

for the right moment to shatter out and fly.

Wolf will always be waiting, the girl always

watching, maybe inside, maybe outside, in the sky.

Smudge of the seasons on windows,

smudge of fingerprints, halo of breath on glass.      

Glass holds nothing but itself.

The window watches me; the seasons sprout

buds and wings as Wolf swirls over the hills.

This poem appears Shanan's collection in Inside the Animal: The Collected Red Riding Hood Poems and was  first published in cream city review

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Follow the links below to read more poetry.

Review of William Trowbridge's 2014 book of poems:

Put This On, Please: New & Selected Poems

View Shanan Ballam's

Curriculum Vitae

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