Jeannine Hall Gailey


Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA’s Elgin Award. She’s also the author of PR for Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity and Marketing. Her work appeared or will appear in journals such as American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and Poetry. Her web site is Twitter and Instagram: @webbish6.


Planting Camellias as an Act of Resistance

Bright March morning after snow. News headlines about rising sea lines, starving orcas, droughts. Early spring brings bomb cyclones. Everyone at the top’s a criminal. Cesium in the sunflowers, strontium-90 in the dust. This morning I dig in the dirt and plant flowers, unnecessary, flagrant: a pink camellia, jonquils, primroses. The blue jays a tinnitus in the air, the little juncos jittering. The resistance a wall of flowers rising against the poison, against the screaming, the satellites, wars and newsrooms. I don’t like feeling helpless, silent in the face of so much terror, so today I make plum jam. The doctors say my nerves are getting thinner. No wonder, shrinking against the agitation, atoms vibrating together with the supermoon. My brain has blank spaces now, illumined by inflammation. They say we will bring change, the moon and me. Listen: every breath in this air is an amplification, every petal a protest.

When I wrote this poem, I was thinking of something positive I could do in the face of so much injustice and horribleness in the news, as well as struggling with my own disability with MS. I was thinking of how to feel empowered, and how to leave behind something good. Sometimes we feel so powerless in the face of evil and tragedy; this was my reaction to that.