NEA Literature Fellowships

Staci R. Schoenfeld

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(2015 - Poetry)

"Two Objects1 and a Girl"

At breakfast the girl spits out gazelle fur with every sip of tea. It clings to the walls, her saliva like glue. Gets stuck between her teeth. At night she coughs up more hair balls than the cat.

She's all instinct and scent. Smells too much of her father. He's been sniffing around. Her fur has come in and her ears grow long. She's skittish. On guard.

The girl's mother hires a dressmaker to cover her daughter's changed form, but the woman doesn't have patterns that fit the four-legged creature standing before her. She advises the mother to fashion a bed out of straw. Make the girl comfortable. What else can you do?

The girl knows. But her long tongue can't wrap itself around the word flee. The other girls call her wild and the teacher leashes her to the treadmill in gym. Over and over she runs the same course, clenches her teeth against tongue and tastes blood.


One day, just like that, the girl sheds her fur. Her ears recede until they could no longer be seen, and she starts humming a lot. Her head narrows at the top and widens at the base and when struck, sounds a hollow thunk.  Inside­—a constant drone. She walks as though travelling through liquid gone thick and viscous.

At night, when the girl's father comes to her bed, he complains of stings.

She pedals her bike around town. Flowers bend toward her as she passes and she aches to bathe in their yellow dust. The girl is last sighted near the bus station.

The people who saw her that day swear she shimmered like a hot-road mirage. She was there and then she wasn't and the seat of her bicycle was swathed in bees.

1. Méret Oppenheim's "Object" (a gazelle fur-covered tea cup, saucer and spoon) and "La bicyclette à la selle d'abeilles" (a photograph of a bicycle seat covered with bees)

(First appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Muzzle Magazine)

A recipient of grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund (2014) and the Kentucky Foundation for Women (2010 and 2014) and residencies from the Ragdale Foundation (2014), Edward F. Albee Foundation (2014), New York Mills Arts Retreat (2014), and Vermont Studio Center (2015), Staci R. Schoenfeld's poems appear in or are forthcoming from Greensboro Review, Washington Square, Southern Humanities Review, Muzzle, Hayden's Ferry Review, diode, South Dakota Review, WomenArts Quarterly, Room Magazine, North Dakota Quarterly, and The Collagist, among others. She holds an MFA from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

Photo by Connie Vandermay/New York Mills Dispatch

Author's Statement

I was a resident at the New York Mills Arts Retreat in New York Mills, Minnesota, revising the poems that make up my first full-length manuscript when the call came. It was the morning after the mid-term elections and the display on my phone only showed the words "Washington D.C." and a phone number. I figured it was a political organization calling for money in the wake of the election. I am very glad I answered.

This award will allow me to begin the process of researching and writing the poems that will be in my second manuscript in a focused way that would not be possible without the security this fellowship offers.

Fear and doubt are often companions on the writing journey and to have an organization say they believe in you enough to support your work cannot be underestimated. I'm thankful that there are still organizations that support individual writers, and I am grateful that I've been selected for the NEA fellowship.