Elizabeth A. I. Powell

So What
August 21, 2019 Powell Elizabeth A.I.


My mind’s a ringing phone
off the hook, a black phone cut
off from the root

of a Sylvia Plath poem.
Sometimes it rings so loudly it sounds like
silence because I’m used to it—
It sounds like:
So what.

The sun was gorgeous in the rearview
Don’t wreck the car ogling it or saying so what.

Freud tried to define dreams and could only think
about sex.

Resolving to be kinder to old folks, veterans, people in chains.
So what.

What do I want,
A medal?

I am building a ship and it is difficult.

I am building it out of blood and notebooks,

I am building it so that it can sail through dissociations.

And if my kidney is salvaged for a sixteen year old. So what.
Jesus on the cross and they banged those nails
so fucking hard.
Crisis is brought to birth by time.

Not knowing I was a character hasn’t prevented me
From being one:

I am that girl running tattered through the pine forest.

I am the woman banging the hammer with a red handle

I am building a safe room called a poem and it is difficult

I am welding together steel walls, retrofitting and reinforcing.

I am trying to crack the secure code, collect provisions to last
a hundred years:

I can write because my index finger is so

And my pen is what


Elizabeth A.I. Powell is the author three books of poems, the most recent is “Atomizer” on LSU Press (2020). Her second book of poems, “Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter: Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances” was a “Books We Love 2016” by The New Yorker.  Her novel, “Concerning the Holy Ghost’s Interpretation of JCrew Catalogues” was published in 2018 in the U.K. She is Editor of Green Mountains Review, and Associate Professor at Northern Vermont University. She serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.