Mia Kirsi Stageberg


Portrait of the late Ken Wainio, when he gave a reading at the Marilyn Monroe Theater in San Francisco.


A cobra opens its mouth to receive the long wax candle of its vigil. Now a writer’s head slowly rises out of the dark floor. His shoulders rise draped in green silk. He stops. Words come out of his pale shining face. They recall to us a soul’s wanderings, chronicle the mutations it suffers under pressure of poison, miracles, and alien wills.

O reptile of transcendence. O silver-skinned driver of spinning truths. Guide us through violated night.

Holy Spirits, bless the Russian River by which the poet ran. The deaths by which his tears fell on us. The moon from which one beast falls to splintered bone, and another flies into the bodies of daughters and sons of man: to speak.

© 1993 Mia Kirsi Stageberg




To Blanche Brown


Muskmelon, singed yams, smoking corn,
Carnaval, San Francisco
Many dancing almost naked in cool, cloudy May
Three walk together with gold silken capes flying behind
Red-coned hats, creatures masked by paint and stilts,
Drums churn—it all begins to smolder as it must

O mother of the trance
The young women obediently whirl their arms
The old move sweet red lips and let down flowing hair
hips that buck and
whirl as pine branches
in a whipping wind
stepping            sinking    laughing
And now like a priestess one with big shoulders
leans her face at the dance
her eerie screams ee ee yip yee!
a shiver nips and stings from spine to spine

                                                 snake joy
                                                the mother
                                       turtle, egg-swimming
                                        leopard-eye, lunging

All bow to the mother,
Spring, the buds fall
Fall open with a proud smile

© 1996 Mia Kirsi Stageberg





Russian River










To Jay DeFeo, who lives in artists’ memory
on my pilgrmage to the Berkeley Museum to see her 3,200 pound painting The Rose


Bulging rocks radiating trancen­dental center. Sloughing, fervor, imprisoned trees, monument to recalcitrant ghosts, mudface, stone cicatrix, unfurling embattled innards, quest for the holy grey, O rose thou art sick, wormeaten glory, pan­demonium when it’s asleep, bulge out bulldoze in, breathe breathe, the ugly truth, the ugly truth will set you free, an indifferent God, holy terror, swallowed glass, once this was excrement, once these petals were boulders, swallow a mouthful of feathers, take out your eyes try them on, Mama please don’t go.

Weatherbeaten, shock-addled, inexorable, upsurging downtrodden another day another year this lifetime past what’s left is your heavy body lying on mine as day breaks. Breaking day mauled heart no don’t say it, don’t say the words. Let me believe, let go, let be, let’s be more, let’s try again, let’s leave, he lets me go my way, let down your golden snare, copulation, forgiveness, where did you put the colors of my life?

O rose thou givest and thou takest away, tears squeezed from your gall bladder, trodden pollen, open your hands now, blade against the collarbone, face the end of this battle with honor, the colors spew faster. Dawn, shooting stars, fire smolders, adduce, decide, attack, contain, recall, complain, seize, skyfall. Sky is falling. Midnight blue, royal yellow, crimson green, all unseen, have this moment, take eat, my body which is given for you, take, my body my eyes, take, body given for you, my body.

You’ll be sorry, Father don’t hit me, throw away the silver, divest yourself of purple of crabapples of afternoons rolling in the leaves. Return your tongue to its place in your mouth. Conflagrate all refuse all lost loves all ungrateful all clotted blood all stopped sink overwrought thought spilled fluid all poisons coagulate.

Coagulate me. Cut the line cut the cord! Cut the cord don’t drop the baby. Quick quicksilver knotted moons unshored ships ah down, down, heavier, spreading core, smooth, washed clean, starting now, new knife new skin, milk boils bubble from bloated ashes perforated toenails leafcrumbled, fresh cry, I, fresh wound: next rose.

© 1998 Mia Kirsi Stageberg

"Reprinted by permission of Silver Bay Books."

Mia Kirsi Stageberg is a writer who, after time in widely disparate cities and a few countries, came to adore living in San Francisco. Her first stories came out in the 1960s and 70s in New Directions annuals. She’s sometimes known for art writing (originally as Mia Kalavinka through artscanada). Stageberg has authored twelve books and chapbooks of fiction and prose poems, including her novella Everything For the Beloved, published by Beatitude Press.

Stageberg is pronounced STAH-ga-berg. It’s Norwegian-American.

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Mia Kirsi Stageberg Books

brokennosejob by Books by Mia Kirsi Stageberg
Prose Poem chapbook,
The Sphinx Winks Press 1994

Snowbank by Mia Kirsi Stageberg
Prose Poems,
Silver Bay Books 2004

Ice Becomes Water
Silver Bay Books 2005

Beatitude Press 2010
Beatlick Press 2014
Nicio and Shula
Nicio and Shula
Smashwords Ebook 2016

Stageberg's alternate-reality Ice Becomes Water and dark fiction Nicio and Shula

features by Mia Kirsi Stageberg
 Telling on Paper: A Personal Evolution
 Kalavinka Dress

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