Published on Academy of American Poets (

How Ella Knows

Ella’s hands know she’s alive today.
Her piano is drenched in sunlight,
and she spends the morning coaxing hums
from its belly. She has made a pet of the wind,
and she lets it in through the screen door, feeds it
dried blooms from a rhododendron.
She thinks about all the mirrors in the houses
on her block. Then she crosses the street
to her neighbor’s yellow door, peers
through the mail slot. It’s dark in there,
and all she sees is a stack
of blue plates on a table. Where
are the secret drawers filled with cigarettes
and diaries? Where are the boxes of pliers
and hammers, the screws flexing
their tiny shoulders? The needles and gum?
When a spider drifts up toward the ceiling,
the afternoon stops moving. Ella stares
for a long time. Then she blinks,
and the leaves go back to sizzling.


Copyright © 2018 Jeffrey Bean. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2018.


Jeffrey Bean

Jeffrey Bean is the author of the poetry collections Woman Putting on Pearls (Red Mountain Press, 2017) and Diminished Fifth (WordTech Communications, 2009) and the chapbooks The Voyeur's Litany (Anabiosis Press, 2016) and Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window (Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2014). He is a professor of English at Central Michigan University and lives in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

Date Published: 2018-07-01

Source URL: