The Nature of Memory
You must be a child of shadows, but not
rain, which erases everything.
You must be full of flit and vinegar, willing to
pull light from broken splinters in your palm.
You must be young and willing to be ruined,
in search of someone who will leave you.
You must love the green, sexy smell
of water, the wind of it,
blowing night across a city, no stars,
only tiles of light wavering in a black mirror,
and standing next to you someone
who knows hunger and arson, but nothing yet
about distance, heartbreak,
or the stark light which settles in the winter face.
You must be all hurry, sweat and borrowed sleep,
full of time to change your life.
You must grow old, having learned it takes stone
to break the water’s dark, finally
realizing you’re a northern country, full of forests
and lost ways, the moon so orange and torn
and heavy, you’re not sure if it will ever rise,
the shadows with their needles and their sugar
creeping out to offer you themselves again.
from Big Love
high above the earth they glowed
though the soles of their feet
when they fell
into bodies the color of rain
their molted wings fell too
and they learned to walk
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 many journals, including Ascent, Blackbird, Calyx, MARGIE, North American Review, Ocho, Salt Hill, and Smartish Pace. Among her awards are the 2006 Lorine Niedecker Award, The Poetry Center of Chicago 14th Annual Juried Reading, and fellowships to the Vermont Studio Center, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She works as a Webmaster in Madison, Wisconsin.