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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Crash; Twins; Doldrums

By: Jennifer MacBain-Stephens


sun’s out

my girl

and me

helmets on

ride fast

cross streets

descend fast

ride close

handlebars lock

get stuck

flip over

land hard

hard cement

can’t breathe

breathe fast

can’t breathe

breathe fast

bent knees

legs limp

speak up

check in

in shock

blood hole

on legs

on elbows

broken bell

broken grip

broken pedal

tall grass

waves silently

missing shoe

ways down

rolling bottle

more blood

stopped car

offers help

texts me

offers ride

extra mask

hide bike

in field

in back

place holder

limping leg

takes her

in car

shallow breath

disjointed pinkie

dripping clear

fat lip

look ahead

look up

the sky

I breathe

gather pieces

hobble foot

shaky voice

focus try

late pain

coming late

make it

unlock door

floor sit

cut clothes

breathe slow

wash clean

bandage gash

floor sit

breathe slow

cut clothes

make call

try again

make call

make plan

meet me

get up

don’t look

breathe slow

don’t look

at it

the hole

the flap

just move

into car

look now


The imagination is my daemon because it is my best friend and my worst enemy. It is my twin because I am my own best friend and my own worst enemy. – Mary Ruefle

I had a twin who walked into a lake with rocks in her pockets

I had a twin who got too close to the monkey cage at the zoo

I had a twin who skied too fast down the mountain

I had a twin who I devoured in the womb

I had a twin who was allergic to chicken stock

I had a twin who had a heart condition

who drove off a ledge

who died from a broken heart

who disappeared over the Atlantic

who disappeared in the Andes

When I say twin I mean me and the way I

maybe get mad too quickly

feel envious of others

wallow a bit

act rash

maybe want more than what I have

or wish ill on someone

or act petty

have trouble coping

and don’t breathe through it all

or count my blessings

and remember that I am loved

that I love in return

that I appreciate all that I have

because someday I will be in a hospital bed

thinking about the good old days

of mowing the lawn in ninety-degree heat

or disagreeing about music or


with a loved one

or not wanting to walk the dog in winter

and that moment will already be gone

and that one

and that one

and that one

and that piece of myself

and that piece

and that piece

until I am many pieces

scattered to the wind

and no one ever says

I wish I had battled with myself more


The Intertropical Convergence Zone, known by sailors as the doldrums because of its monotonous weather, is the area where the northeast and southeast trade winds converge. It encircles Earth near the thermal equator, though its specific position varies seasonally – National Ocean Service

my rib cage houses

no dolphin spirit

You may be lacking motivation

sometimes I fear water

being thrown into a lake as a child

the silence surrounding

over my head

trying to bob above

Create a schedule

I cannot breathe

sometimes in bed at 3am

when I ponder tomorrow

which hasn’t happened yet

what didn’t I act on

last night?

and the night before

and time management is key

the correct question tomorrow is

too much already

spit and salt

without sanitizing

singing without song

Ease your anxiety by controlling what you are able to

a lip lock hum under waves

an ankle swerve

eyes misdirect

in the foamy bath

an unknown girl who looks like me in my dream

long dark hair


in doll t shirts,

Consider the positives

memories of petting a violent

German shepherd in fields

His saliva flying

all bodies groan animal and human

in an angry Mercury year

take up a hobby

the moon so bored

with currents

we reach and choke, pulled by fingers

Make it fun!

ache for more in this freezing room

the water plays my forearms like a flute,

the notes barrel down my throat

Lines in italics taken from The Gundersen Health system ( “Five Coping Tips for Quarantining at Home.” (Last updated August, 2020.)


Jennifer MacBain-Stephens (she/her) went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and now lives in Iowa where she is landlocked. She is the author of four poetry collections and fifteen chapbooks and enjoys exploring how to blend creativity with nurturing the earth. Recent work appeared in The Westchester Review, Cleaver, Dream Pop, and Grist. She also hosts a free, monthly reading series sponsored by Iowa City Poetry called Today You Are Perfect. Find her at

Interview with the Poet:

Cathexis Northwest Press:

How long have you been writing poetry?

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens:

Over ten years now at least. I started writing poetry when I moved from New York and went to live in Lake Arrowhead, California. My husband at the time had a job opportunity in the area. Lake Arrowhead is at the top of a mountain north of Los Angeles. It was remote area, but I saw in a newsletter that a group of people was meeting at a cafe to workshop writing so I joined up and connected with some great friends and poets at that time. We even put out a little zine of our writing.


Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?


I definitely fell in love with Poe and Sylvia Plath in high school, not knowing that “horror poetry” could exist or that one could write poems about “beds.” But some of the first poems that really struck a chord in me was Juliet Cook’s “The Laura Poems” which were all about the television series Twin Peaks. I fell hard for poetry then and I still love horror and fantasy poetry.


Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?


My favorite poets are Nikki Giovanni, Terrance Hayes, Tracy K. Smith, Sarah Nichols, Ellen Huang, Elizabeth Strauss Friedman, Jessica L. Walsh, Fox Henry Frazier, Juliet Cook, Sarah Lilius, Patrick Armijo, Michael Sikkema, and Christopher Eck.

Here are some links! Scraped at Cotton Xenomorph by Jessica L. Walsh

3 poems by Juliet Cook and Daryl Shupe here at Menacing Hedge:

Poems by Sarah Nichols inspired by the film, Suspiria at Yes, Poetry:


Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?


A big part of my writing process is getting to my computer and having some quiet: not feeling that I have to be somewhere else. I have 3 kids, so this is actually super important! Getting to the screen or journal and just free writing, walking in nature, going to art galleries, staring into space. All of these things help me hear the thoughts in my brain.


How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?


I’ve gotten great advice from my fellow friend and poet Sarah Lilius. I used to write my poems in huge chunks of words, more prose like. I would then workshop them with Sarah and she will suggest couplets or adding more spaces between the words, based on the poem. Like this one poem I have about trees has a ton of space between the words, since I was trying to create the feel of a quiet forest. It’s pretty fun to play with words on the page. It can really change the meaning of the poem for you. I highly recommend it!


Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?


I would say, definitely read the poets you love, read the journals you love. Your mind can be blown from a single poem. The important thing is getting to the page, right? Writers write. who cares if it isn’t what you want at first? Come back to it. Time and space always help. When you are passionate about something, you get it down on the page. Or it might even become something else entirely!


What is your editing process like?


I will do a lot of free writing about an idea I like. Then ideally, I will put it away, and come back to it the next day. I will try to do this several times, until I feel good about it. If I can, I will also show it to my friend to workshop. Big or small ideas on how to revise can be found in workshopping with other poets you trust. It’s amazing. At some point, I will feel satisfied about the poem.


When do you know that a poem is finished?


It doesn’t always happen-but sometimes I do have a a glowy, inspirational feel that says YES, this is done. I’ve said something I wanted to say. But most of the time, I just know, I don’t have interest in working on it anymore. And then that’s it for me. It will fall where it may.


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