Since 1996 Volume XXVIII

Susan Terris

Susan Terris’ recent books are Familiar Tense (Marsh Hawk) 2019; Take Two: Film Studies (Omnidawn) 2017, Memos (Omnidawn) 2015; and Ghost of Yesterday: New & Selected Poems (Marsh Hawk) 2012. She's the author of 7 books of poetry, 16 chapbooks, 3 artist's books, and one play.  Journals include The Southern Review, Georgia Review, PoetryMagazine.com, Blackbird, Prairie Schooner, and Ploughshares. A poem of hers appeared in Pushcart Prize XXXI. A poem from Memos was in Best American Poetry 2015. She has just won the 2019 Swan Scythe Chapbook Award. Ms. Terris is editor emerita of Spillway Magazine and a poetry editor at Pedestal. www.susanterris.com

These five poems are from a series called Fractured Alphabet of the Unknown





As a girl who longed to walk a tight rope,

I tied an old clothesline from one branch


to another between limbs of the sumac tree,

which turned out to be as unsuccessful


as the silkworms I fed with mulberry leaves

eager to make their cocoons into silk scarves.


Now the rope is all. To walk it as wife, mother,

and lover takes all the balance I can muster.







Its a volume of tales and spells, potions, rituals

any witch might follow—a craft of crafts, but


listen, her Book of Shadows is unique. She knows

how to tango with a tiger, how to catch burglars


with carpets of quicksand. She can quick-chill

your husband’s lover to a pillar of blue ice. And. . .


in her cauldron, she makes sweet rose drops sure

to impregnate or plum brandy meant to kill.








Cumulous day by the sand-bottom lake.

Time. A cross-country photo sent, and he says


it’s erotic. Is it still? Don’t ask what that means

or how long. He wants to know how to cook


green beans. Navel-gaze paused, I text, Skillet,

chicken broth. Then pantlegs rolled, I use a knife


to slice my ripened peach and yearn to touch

a cloud yet wonder if this would bring rain.







Chronic doubters, we can’t get our heads around

the idea of shiny white saucers floating down


in the Nevada desert and disgorging menacing

white creatures with elephant eyes. Still though,


mesmerized, by the Perseides, we love to lie on

our backs, see white streaks against the night sky,


but the only space-aliens we know are the Starbucks

techies, big-eyed 24/7 at their Apples and Macs.








A duck, a lemon, a buttercup, a cab. All yellows

meant to uplift, create moments of bliss like


morning sun or the yellow pad on which I’m

scribbling, as a mythical canary trills for me


and for the mustard-colored tape that metes out

my days. Maybe before Atropos decides to cut


that cord, I will step on xanthic banana peelings

and ski from this world into the next. . . .



Copyright, 2020, Susan Terris.
All Rights Reserved

Mary Barnet


Grace Cavalieri

Joan Gelfand

Janet Brennan