Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer




We have confirmed reports
the [                 ] exists.

We have differing reports.

We have varying accounts of
the sighting of the [                 ].

But we can confirm for you today
that [                 ] exists,    
that it is—extraordinary;  
singular, perhaps,
but not the only one.

For two appeared this morning—
a pair of females—
and their bodies were like
dogs the size of horses
like emus with the heads of dogs
and some have said
like wolves
and some have said
with horns
and some have seen
a double tusk of onyx
which the animal bares
when it becomes
determined, all jaw,
your number in its mouth.


Divine strangeness by intimacy
What is strange has been polluted by          what is ordinary  familiar

Is it muddled? Muddied? Watered down?
What frightens you about something so innocuous?

The innocuousness.

Everyone is becoming their own era. Post- world.


You have asked about the proposed restrictions
on the [                 ] —and I have stated
and I will tell you
—I have said that those proposals came from
outside this administration—
The President will not approve this—
She will not affiliate
or be a party to—
any program that encroaches upon the [                 ]
—that waters down or separates into
solutions and precipitates—           And furthermore—
and furthermore—
In the [                 ] you have shown her—
And you have made it very clear—
I can confirm that she has seen the [                 ]
—and she is willing
She is willing to defend the [                 ]
—she understands the consequence—
She acknowledges and will protect the [                 ]  —I tell you
I tell you—
I tell you she is willing



It hovered over the body.

The rain hovered over
and shouldered its weight.

Before the body,
an arrangement of injurious roses.

The water hovered ponderously
and shielded the body from its own weight.


It is not unusual to have dreams about waves. Your mother, your sister. Not unusual. Not nightmares. Nightmares. Either/or. The bottlenose shark. The sheepshead shark. Heads, high as a bookcase. Sharks that tunnel boxy along canals. Beyond the animal, and what is animal. Whatever bears a planetary tooth. And you must weigh how much you wish to be in the water against the danger of being swallowed whole. Dreams of waves are common. Common, dreams of the sea. Dreams of tides and tidalness. All waves coming at once. The colossal single wave that balances you barely. The small you, atop the wine-dark sea.




is two-headed—
the desire that impels you            
and the fear that unforces your hand.
Do I throw you down the stairs?    Or myself?

Be careful on the stairs          becomes
What if you fell                        becomes
I want to see you fall             becomes
troubling          when the order is reversed.          

What else shall I imagine if not the worst?

In a dream, the dorsal fin we swim with
is curved, benign
but it may very well be    
so it might as well be      
a shark's.

And if it swims into the shallows, do I insist upon
what I know to be the opposite and pull myself and my mother out?
How she protests           Oh, Stephanie. Don't be ridiculous.

Is it ridiculous to imagine tumbling down stairs to death?
Do I imagine myself instead as an acrobat     combating death with skilled tumblings?

I don't like adrenaline   
I don't like weightlessness   
I don't like the shrugging off of calculated risk.
But then, I do    
I lie      
I take my chances.

I like how the body prepares itself for death.

If I think            I might slice my hand off with this knife
it's not because I'm drawn to blood
but I like to see a cylinder pooling with it
from a hollow needle in my arm.

It's just the grasp of accidents—
things happen every day.
Is it ridiculous to dream of landing upright after all?

But what to make of the clear bull head under water?
What to make of the shark     emerging     on four legs?
Dog of the sea       dog with the dorsal-finned back—
It's coming right at us        I say      It is coming for us.




These poems are part of a series where the mind is imagined as a collection of governing bodies, with various ministers, cabinets, and other officials presiding over specific functions of the brain. As I maintain a hybrid practice of writing and visual art, I am currently working on a series of sculptures and photographs based on this work.