Maya Stein is a ninja poet, writing guide, and creative adventuress. She has published two collections of personal essays and two collections of poetry and photographs. Her “10-line Tuesday” poems, reach nearly 1,000 people each week. Maya recently completed “Type Rider: Cycling the Great American Poem,” a 40-day bike journey that had her toting a vintage typewriter from Massachusetts to Wisconsin.
To learn more about Maya, visit mayastein.com.
When the last seat is taken,
or the key has trapped in the lock.
When rain has eviscerated your garden,
or your words have run out one by one.
When the bright white of your day
has paled and pixilated.
When the grocery bag rips coming up the stairs,
when the telephone bill shocks
and then flounders you.
When love has flown off course.
When the ache for something nameless
fans out into your bones.
When you are hungry, or lost or in need of a hand
across your eyelashes.
When it is you tripping on the stained carpet of your trouble,
Place one leaden, obstinate foot
where you can see it.
Gather your maniacal breath,
your little windbags of lungs.
Eye only the square of sidewalk a blink away,
that quadrant of concrete mottled with the dirty
evidence of living,
When the manual for what’s broken
has been misplaced. When the view is obscured
by a restless construction site.
When the bridge toll climbs and the road
down the mountain is pummeled with snow.
When your face bears little resemblance
to the person you remember.
When the field is populated with abler bodies.
When poems have been written by nimbler souls.
When no amount of squinting
delivers oasis, begin here.
Guide your defeated arms
into a small fit of swinging.
Coerce your hips into the barest
shimmy. Locate the pocket of a single,
deserted minute, its hum of insignificance,
When cheer cannot cheer you.
When crumbs cannot feed you.
When the storage space in the garage
topples from the weight.
When beauty eludes you.
When the weatherman confirms your fear.
When the doctor bears his wild news.
When you return to the bad habit.
When the current continues its brutal tackle.
When mess is your middle name,
Climb onto your weary haunches. Lift your belly
from its mattress cave. Initiate the wholly
unremarkable act of breathing, and go.
When you have had enough.
When you have had too much.
When your fortress has not kept away the enemy,
and the walls are an abscess of rubble.
Do not fling yourself from the gangplank.
Do not hasten your disappearance
with your own cruelty.
Do not mask your ferocity with a collage of good manners.
The death’s door of your failure
is still a door.
Wrap your shaking fist around the handle.
Hear the cricket click of the latch.