Where Good Swimmers Drown
In small towns with one undertaker,
a grocer, six taverns,
and bottomless backwoods lakes,
where your five-and-dime locket sinks
down and down,
disappearing like a silver minnow,
and your red sandals too,
small as doll shoes,
smaller as you float farther out.
You don’t know what’s underneath
but you know how
fast, fast cars can fly, the souls
of farm boys getting trapped in bottles,
and god knows it feels good,
the wind picking up,
soft weeds braceleting your wrists,
the shoreline curved
into a smile you can remember, just.
How to Fall in Love
Start by leaving home. It’s not where the heart is,
but where the hard edge is. When ice begins
to ebb from shoreline
freeing mangy marsh grass,
And as you pick up speed, let your life arc out,
away from you.
Realize you don’t know where you’re going
and the weather changes often.
Steer between the stars
like songbirds coming back at night.
Listen to the whirring
of a thousand, thousand miles of dark.
Remember you are ancient,
that once you walked out of the sea
and in the trees became another thing.
Know you can again.
Become three kinds of lonely.
Light a torch.
Leave a trail of handprints on the walls.
Or start by staying put.
Be a whisper looking for a mouth: luna, luna, luna.
Sit underneath the porch light.
Eat walnuts and persimmons.
Spread your red-edged wings.
“Calling time” begins near midnight.
Be hungry. Want.
Women are locks. Men open them for doors.
Poem Without Us as We
That summer night I was an unturned field
you came to with your spade and hoe:
a bladed moon jigsawed the sky, bright pieces
falling through the trees:
your want, the maul that coppered me:
mercury that shivered in your hand:
each of us 100-proof,
all slurred and whiskeyed for the other:
oh, sweetie, you were blunt-force
trauma, hit-man, a pro:
it was all too brief:
my love went out like a light:
and you thought your tender bludgeoning
never left a scar.
Wasn’t it lovely, under the New Flowers Opening Moon,
how I left the porch light on,
called you in, offered walnuts and persimmons?
And in the month of the Sunburn Moon, that lunatic
light tugging our tides, didn’t we try,
really try to cool our hot heels in the dazzling lake?
That was the two-fer month when a Blue Moon took us
by surprise and we went deep into
the pond of our dreams, too deep to come up for air.
I forget. Did resistance start under the Sturgeon Moon,
steeped in green and the frantic buzz
of those who realize they won’t live forever?
Or was it in the Moon of Spider Webs on the Ground,
when a slow rot began in the trees,
and bruised clouds like the world leaned down on us?
No, it was in the Fall From Moon, that insane bowed sky,
the awful scrying stars. No dark side
but the one we imagined. Christ, all those bladed blues.
The End of Love
among the flowers
she tried, but
this night she flew away
and was left
Susan Elbe is the author of Eden in the Rearview Mirror (Word Press) which received Honorable Mention for the Posner Poetry Book Prize, and Light Made from Nothing (Parallel Press). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in anthologies and many journals, including Blackbird, Calyx, MARGIE, North American Review, and Smartish Pace. Among her awards are the 2006 Lorine Niedecker Award, the Calyx Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize, The Poetry Center of Chicago 14th Annual Juried Reading, and a Rowland Foundation residency to the Vermont Studio Center. Susan currently serves on the Council for Wisconsin Writers Board and the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. She works as a webmaster in Madison, Wisconsin.