CENTER STAGE

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LISA STICE

Image by Thomas Bennie

While Daddy’s at Training, Our Daughter Asks Questions

I don’t know how to explain 35,000 feet—
all I can say is it’s very high—yes, far above
our house and those trees, but no, not beyond
the moon or the stars—and how far are those?
but I don’t know how to explain that either.

When will he be back?—so I count the days,
point to them on the calendar—what is it like
in the sky?—I say I know it’s cold and difficult
to breathe, but I don’t know how to explain
50 below or the partial pressure of oxygen.

She pretends to be an airplane—can I skydive?
and I say when you are much older, but I don’t
know if I’d want her to—she counts backwards
then jumps her couple inches—and my heart
rises before it falls back into place again.

*from Forces (Middle West Press); first published in
The Honest Ulsterman, June 2018

This One Is Mine
after William J. Rupertus’ “The Rifleman’s Creed”

There she is. The small one over
there with the awkward run that
every five-year-old has, but look
there how her backpack reaches
there to her knees, how she balances
there on one leg then quickly moves
there to pick up litter out of rocks while
I wait here in the car line and watch.
There are others like her (maybe), but
this one is mine. I am useless, it is
true, without her. She and I know
there was no time before her. And
she has a father. We teach her to
be clean and ready. And she has a
brother (who is a terrier). We are
there to teach how weaknesses can
be strengths, how small ones can be
there right next to everyone, or even
there somewhere ahead. We are a part
of each other. From here, I watch her
there. Look how she pulls everything
into her sights, ready to move from
there, clean into wherever she wants.

*from Forces (Middle West Press); first published
in Pure Slush: Pride 7 Deadly Sins vol. 7 spring 2019

Headstrong

I’m sorry catches in the throat
and bruises in that wavering
hesitation like a rock falling
back to earth. See how it curves
under the skin, twists and cuts
as it hugs the voice box.

I forgive sways like a tamarack—
hackmatack, red larch, juniper,
larix laricina—of the low-lands
with roots in cool mud and branches
in the soft air where we hold
the belief we are stronger than wind.

The end is as blue as slag and twice
as worthless. This is where I say
I never meant it, and this is where
you say it doesn’t matter anymore
because words are less than
clouds and leaves and stone.

*from Forces (Middle West Press); first published
in The Wrath-Bearing Tree, January 2018

Q&A with poet Lisa Stice

Describe your “writer-self” in three words.

Quiet, inspired, observant.

What is the most challenging aspect about writing for you?

Since the pandemic started, it’s been difficult for me to keep a regular writing schedule. For a long while before, I wrote a poem a day. Grant it, they weren’t always keepers, but my mind and creative spirit was always in poet-mode. I thrive on relationships and talking with people, and so being isolated has made it difficult for me to generate new poems. Not writing many new poems has given me ample time to revise and organize my previously written pieces, and so I still feel productive and connected to writing.

Where, when and how are you inspired to write?

When it comes to the poems I write about my daughter (Saoirse) and/or dog (Seamus), that inspiration comes write in the moment. My daughter will say something or my dog will do something, and I have to put it into words. I keep little notebooks and scrap paper all over the house and in my purse (in case I’m not at home). Other poems might come to me — usually late at night — when I’m reflecting on an experience I had that day, or a conversation I had with someone, or something I read recently.

What are you reading right now?

I’m lucky to be reading Eric Chandler’s soon-to-be-released poetry collection Kekekabic and I’m reading another soon-to-be-released poetry collection. The second is a secret; I was asked to write a blurb for it. I just finished reading Randy Brown’s chapbook So Frag & So Bold and am reading Matilda with my daughter. Next up is Bebe Ashley’s Gold Light Shining (for my individual reading) and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline (for co-reading with my daughter).

Best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

Don’t try to sound like a poet. Be your own voice.

If you could tell your younger writer-self anything, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to share your poems. For several years, I wrote without attempting to submit my poems anywhere. I just kept them all to myself. At first, it’s a little scary to know that people will have access to your feelings and secrets, but poems are meant to be shared. If they just stay in a journal, they don’t get to do what poems are supposed to do, which is help people communicate and connect with each other.

Which poet or character from a book/movie would you invite to dinner and why?

Well, if it’s dinner, I’d want a character who’s fun and cheery and who would foster lively conversations, so I’d pick Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables books. I read those books over and over again when I was a kid and always felt Anne and I were “kindred spirits.”

Any advice for budding writers who are trying to get their work out into the world?

Read literary journals. Without reading journals, you’ll never know which ones are good fits for your writing. When your submission is rejected, don’t give up. It might not have been a good fit or the right timing, or it could also mean your writing needs a little more work before it’s ready for publication.

All poems featured are from Lisa’s collection Forces. Order your copy here.

Lisa Stice is a poet/mother/military spouse, the author of three full-length poetry collections, Forces (Middle West Press, 2021), Permanent Change of Station (Middle West Press, 2018), and Uniform (Aldrich Press, 2016), and a chapbook, Desert (Prolific Press, 2018). She is a Pushcart Prize nominee who volunteers as a mentor with the Veterans Writing Project, as Poetry Editor for The Military Spouse Book Review, as Poetry Editor for Inklette Magazine, and as a writer for the Military Spouse Fine Artists Network (Milspo-FAN). She received a BA in English literature from Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University) and an MFA in creative writing and literary arts from the University of Alaska Anchorage. While it is difficult to say where home is, she currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, daughter and dog. You can learn more about her publications at lisastice.wordpress.com and facebook.com/LisaSticePoet and on Twitter @LisaSticePoet.

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