Poems by Dr. Susan Azar Porterfield

When Something is Over or The Inestimable Beauty of Not Knowing

Late October–what will happen 
now?  The earth moving re-moves my focus,

each moment inviting the then and
then: petunias nag me for drink,

but I’m deaf to their pleas,
milk on the verge spilled now (why wait?),

novels I will not read twice,
return texts I just won’t send—you say,

fusty peaches may yet revive as pie,
but, confess it, Luv,

reincarnation’s rare.

­Oh, to make a start . . .

A clean desk rumoring the wide open,
the naked-spirit air.

A new book humming in the hands.
Hair I’ve green-lighted to amble gray.

Seedlings I’ll swaddle in April and well,
you know how the story ends

or maybe you don’t.


What I Can Save

Small instances of light and mass,
fine arms and legs, maybe antennae,

things with wings or fins or tails. 
We’ve a bug-jar to ferry out, shelter cats asnooze.

I send money but not enough. 
Eased my mother but not enough.

I couldn’t help a crippled raccoon
scooting by for scraps and a fox last year,

struck by the car ahead, who locked eyes
as I drove on by.

I didn’t save my father from dying alone. 
I dodged an unstable friend,

ignored a man begging. 
I slept and ate and fussed my hair

through Kosovo and Rwanda.  I saved
no refugee babies washed up

or Syrian children pulled from stone.
Seems these hands are stumps,

my heart’s a front-hall closet,
my head, a coarse-weave net.


Story of a Little Time (with Birds)

They thought she’d died 
­ ­­               but maybe not.

After all, there she was
               sitting across from him as always,

chatting away at the breakfast table,
               reading the NYTimes (all the news . . .).

Meanwhile, birds flew in and
              out of the house as if

it were a conduit or path.
              They couldn’t stop them, and really,

they liked the razzle-dazzle wings
              though she cautioned, in public

he shouldn’t speak to her aloud,
              since people were sure to ask,

who you talking to?
              and besides, they themselves

didn’t know what the story was
              since they were pretty sure she’d died,

though she wasn’t acting dead.
                             In truth, they didn’t care.

We could live this way forever, they thought,
                             birds and all, fluttering

round their place, twittering airs
                             she was beginning to hum.


Susan Azar Porterfield writes poetry and essays about poetical matters. Born in Chicago, she has a Ph.D. in Nineteenth-Century British Literature and a M.A. in British art from the Courtauld Institute in London. She is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Grant for poetry, the Cider Press Review Editor’s Prize for poetry for her book, Dirt, Root, Silk, and she won a Fulbright Grant to Lebanon, which resulted in her book of poetry, Kibbe. 



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