Since 1996 Volume XXIII

                              Susan Kelly-DeWitt

Susan Kelly-DeWitt is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow and the author of Spider Season (Cold River Press, 2016), The Fortunate Islands (Marick Press, 2008) and nine previous small press collections and online chapbooks.  Her work has appeared in many anthologies, and in print and online journals at home and abroad. She is also currently a member of the National Book Critics Circle and the Northern California Book Reviewers Association. For more information, please visit her website at www.susankelly-dewitt.com

What Speaks




It is not the mother barking her commands

to hook your attention to her defeating

diatribes—not the drunken father droning

slurred and pitiable monologues into the dawn—


It is not


the sour teacher, clapping her hands to startle you,

nor is it the sharp whack of the pitiless ruler you use

to measure yourself in her class—  No.


This is the soft,


furred tongue of the fern calling out to you—

the unspooling of the threads of morning.

This is linnet and bee, and spider, rapt

at her work in the rafters,


who ask you to attend, who draw you gently



into a quiet place.




Reading a Ghost's Book

Of Poems



I woke this morning with two bright blood dots

in my palms--tiny blood roses

between the heart and life


lines. The ghost's book was on the table

beside me. The poems knew she is

a ghost. They understood


she is one of the disappeared though her pulse

thumps on inside them, though they wear

her bones, her sorrows, exhale


the world through her lungs; though her words

still rush along inside their veins

like blood.


                                    for C.D. Wright, in memory


Yellow-Billed Magpies



                        Talkie Chaplins in a cinema of fields:

Bird fame is reeling the milky pod


                        of the money tree back to collect

the seed. I study them for free—


                        catalog their viridian sheen, peacock

feather and onyx light—how they drop,


                        spat-winged, pomaded, in the middle of flight,

as though flight was some bad dream


                        they’d startled awake from.

Little Yahwehs in tuxedoes. Beak.


                        Every day I walk out among them,

an unemployed mystic of the tangible,


                        as they hand down their

Darwinian laws.


Love's Animal, 1958



This is the night Uncle

will be carried away by his love affair

with drink. The Seven Sisters police the sky

until the paddy wagon arrives. (He doesn’t realize

I’ve been smuggled out a bedroom

window, to summon the law


from a neighbor’s phone; he rages on

inside the three-family house.) His face wears

liquor’s dull polish when the cops ring the bell;

his tattooed knuckles rap L-O-V-E-U

against the bars


as they lock him in. He’s love’s animal

tonight. His wounded cat-cry whines at us

when the wagon skids from the curb.

It sounds like refrain,

like singing.



            The wild geese take flight

            low along the railroad tracks…



My poet-friend sends me a Masaoka Shiki

postcard from Oakland. I hold my pen


like a single lonely chopstick and write back

on a Georgia O’Keeffe.


Once I poured rice wine liberally

over fresh-steamed rice, fanned it


with a Hiroshige fan, smoothed out

sheets of Nori to make sushi


from scratch— the method my Japanese

exchange student roommate taught me


before she eloped one night with a born-again

biker from Missoula;


before the pink dial phone rang, her parents

at the other end, in Toyko:


Who? Where? When?

I never heard from her again.


It was the Sixties. The rent was due,

The phone bill arrived on schedule.


                                    for Judy H.



Vapor Trail




Verily we sailed along,

through the sacred vineyards.

Venus was in retrograde.

I dressed in velvet; it was

a veneer. You wore faded

blue jeans--they were your

vestments. There were no

vows, only views of inner

valleys, heart-vistas.


Then marriage appeared, vague

at first--a vapor trail. Venus was

in retrograde. The vows were

our vector. You wanted to be my

vicar. Words like victor and victim

refused to enter our mutual

vocabulary. The future picked

up velocity. We decided to be-

come a village. We didn't know

we were building a volcano.


Love-volts then venom. Venus

was in retrograde. A father had

foreseen, had vetoed, said verboten.

Three years. Then the voice

inside said vacate. We complied.

Was it vanity or vacancy that veered

us? And is this veracity, or

the vaudeville version?



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