Friday, November 15, 2013

Three Poems (Susan Elbe)


It's luck after all, and timing.
You can dream the world any way you want,
but crows wait, patient in the just-dark,

outside a ring of street light and too often
no one waits at home. Even when they do,
some sisters never make it back,
gone on frozen shoulders,
Sunday matinees stretching into nights,
bus after bus swishing by, empty,

and the kohl-eyed girls on stoops
with smoke snaking from their fingertips,
who drift from slattern streets
to the back seats of used cars
to drafty flats with bad lighting,
where kitchens idle with refrigerator-hum,

where it's too late when they realize,
like snow, they've drifted into corners,
all they know, two kinds of darkness:
in the popcorn-littered balcony,
white lightning on the new moon
of their rapt and upturned faces,

in bed, river-water running underneath
their fevered sleep, the false light
of white-bellied fish floating through.

From The Map of What Happened (Backwaters Press, 2013)
and first appeared in Crab Creek Review (Fall/Winter 2009)

The box this comes in is mine

                   C. D. Wright, Cooling Time

This is the shape of the block I grew up on,
the four-flat I lived in, the backyard I loved,
its iron birdbath, sheets snapping on lines,
threadbare and white as the pages of books
I got lost in. This is the shape of late winter
light pouring in on the rug. And this is
the shape of my mother's gravestone. Bless
this dear little box, the lines of remember
it holds, the corners of blank folded
down in the room of forget.

First appeared in The Map of What Happened (Backwaters Press, 2013)

[Some nights the trees]

glow, full of yellow eyes,

all of us purring
in the lap of dark


night used to be a comfort,

its idle fingers stroking
the slack silver of our bodies


nothing between us
and the huge arc of sky

its tusk of moon, wind

humming across
the maps of our ears


now we listen to
a different world press in

the jackhammer of its laughter

a growl of gears
the deep empty at its edge


not ours
but someone else's dreaming


we hear snow
slipping off the mountain,

its cold trickling
in the creases of our skin


we do not belong to the future

"Drifting" and "The box this comes is mine" are poems from my new book, The Map of What Happened, winner of The Backwaters Press poetry prize. The contest judge, David Clewell, says it better than I can:  "Welcome to the personal mythology of Elbe's Chicago...." "[Some nights the trees]" is part of a chapbook in progress "about elephants". You can hear me read my poems on Blackbird and read two more at Verse Daily.

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