Poetry Sunday: “Little Epiphanies,” by Allison Joseph

Little Epiphanies

The difference between what’s required
and what’s desired is the difference

between the chocolate and the cake,
the car and the new car smell, the nightie

and the night. There’s so much I want
to twist round my fingers, to stroke

and stir, sketch and stretch, but so much
I should sweep and scrub, strip

and sterilize. But I’d rather wring dirt
from my pores, turn it to ink instead,

rather scurry to my driveway to study
the moon’s abrupt phrases than kneel

with bucket and mop to banish shadows
that have sprung up on my kitchen

floor, darkening my soles as if I were
anointed, a kind of low-rent henna

for the lazy and uninhibited.
I should keep the unmentionables

unmentioned, nudity prohibited,
purses to a minimum, but I thrive

on clutter—my gaudy bras and bags
of yarn, my malfunctioning pens,

last chance reams of slightly damaged
paper. The difference between what’s whole

and what’s held, what’s withheld
or revealed, what’s real and what’s

revelation—that’s what I seek,
rest of my life spent in search

of little epiphanies, tiny sparks surging
out of the brain during the clumsiest speech.


First published in Valparaiso Poetry Review. © by Allison Joseph.


Allison Joseph lives in Carbondale, Illinois, where she directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University. She serves as poetry editor of Crab Orchard Review.  Her books and chapbooks include What Keeps Us Here (Ampersand Press), Soul Train (Carnegie Mellon University Press), In Every Seam (University of Pittsburgh Press), Worldly Pleasures (Word Tech Communications), Imitation of Life (Carnegie Mellon UP), Voice: Poems (Mayapple Press), My Father’s Kites (Steel Toe Books), Trace Particles (Backbone Press), Little Epiphanies (Imaginary Friend Press), Mercurial (Mayapple Press), Mortal Rewards (White Violet Press), Multitudes (Word Poetry), The Purpose of Hands (Glass Lyre Press), Double Identity (Singing Bone Press), Corporal Muse (Yellow Chair Press), and What Once You Loved (Barefoot Muse Press). She is the literary partner and wife of poet and editor Jon Tribble. Multitudes can be ordered here.



Poet’s Note

“Little Epiphanies” has become somewhat of a signature poem for me. It’s a poem everyone seems to love. It started because I’m the world’s worst housekeeper—really, my house should be featured on “Hoarders: Literary Edition.” So, all the poem’s clutter is real.  In writing the poem, I was thinking about how I transform all this daily clutter into my poems—how I rise above while simultaneously being surrounded by it. I don’t think I often achieve the “little epiphanies” the poem describes, but when I do, it’s usually through poetry—either writing it, reading it, or hearing it.

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Jan Hersh May 1, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    on my day off
    sleep in
    savor a fried duck egg with toast
    load and run the clothes washer
    think about emptying the dishwasher
    return to bed
    catch up on email
    read your provocative poem
    smile and sigh just to know
    I am not alone