William Stobb

William Stobb is the author of Nervous Systems, a National Poetry Series selection by Penguin Books. Two collections of his work are forthcoming: Vanishing Acts, a limited edition chapbook from the Black Rock Press at the University of Nevada, and Floodlight, a full-length collection from Penguin Books. His poems appear in recent issues of American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Jacket and other publications. Stobb hosts “Hard to Say,” a poetry podcast on miPOradio, and works as Associate Editor for Conduit.



To the extent I am invisible, I remain
aligned with nobility. Daily, I trust the body
to do what it can—blink and hum,
piss and shit painlessly. Compelling visions
of the future such as fragile
system, burning timeline, quiet void
can’t cancel this moment, mine
as much as anyone’s. Witness
dirigible overhead trailing commercial banner.
Cover band stranded and texting.
Stripper adjusts her mind frame
to rock hard because her man’s not paying
attention. Everything’s a startup.
Reset buttons invented us.
Both of his statements were undeniably true:
he brought me into this world
and could take me out, out, out
in the yard at night
amazed by the sky I tried
throwing a ball up out of a feeling
I now see as my wireless network to the stars
—ha ha Hollywood, your sign crumbles
in apocalypse movies while humbler items
go on reflecting, absorbing, emitting.


“At that time I was living
a kind of monastic life. In the morning
I would play a few notes on the piano
like a chime and watch out the window
the world unwinding. I no longer thought
about painting or the people
I had hurt and left behind.
If I controlled everything correctly
I could feel the peace of mind endings imply.

One fall day a cardinal was appearing
and vanishing and appearing again
on the poplar overhanging the street.
Its motion untied a ribbon
in the mist shrouding the distant bluff top.
Visibility diminished all morning until
the low sky unraveled into hail.
The storm became so fierce I imagined
windshields imploding all over town.
Had the bird found shelter
in the shredded poplar?
Or would I find its body tangled in maybe
the only mistake it ever made, the arbor vitae?

Then a van appeared at the curb.
A man emerged and, protecting his head,
dashed up my walk. He was in trouble
—fully exposed in a dangerous storm—
so I started for the door.
It would be unnecessary to invite him in.
And although he would neither speak nor ever be
identified by any authority, I felt a sense
of recognition. For a moment—
before he showed me things
I would willingly do to stay alive—
I felt at ease, as if lost in a holiday memory.
The stranger smiled naturally
and I said hello.”