Su Smallen: Three Poems
Graveyard Below Black Lake | 3:45 am - 3:45 pm, Mid-November | When we fall away from one another as if ill, we fall within our bodies as if elms in winter
Graveyard Below Black Lake
after Erick Hawkins and Larry Levis
Here the skyline is sky, stars in between
all the ordinary stars. The unlit
buildings are smaller than I, one for each
sleeping resident. On a shepherd's hook
a bird feeder hangs empty. It does not
sway. The night breeze lifts up a smell, tangy
like lawn cuttings kept in a dark bag, then
fades. Browning mums and blue memorials
have fallen over. Absently I straighten
them, the thought arises that this may atone
for something of which I am not yet aware.
The Payne's gray path I am not walking is lined
with poplars. "Their roots must touch the dead."
Death must touch the poplars; dying stars, death.
I am so tired I lie down here but I am not
tired enough to stay. A bleached lamb
has settled on the stone of Elizabeth
Mary since 1895. "Liza."
It's the etched nickname that hooks me; mine
for you is Lamb. Liza's has lichen curls
and is smooth where my hands have been rubbing
you like an icon of rest, of peace.
I think of bones, hipbones living between
us tomorrow when I breathe the gentle
fact of you, your particular sweet scent
fading as we make ourselves ordinary.
I trespass against Liza and these dead
who, though touched, have nothing to hold them, no
ligaments of lust. There are no fallen
crosses to amend this. Loss, loss,
each step is loss. The poplars turn their palms.
3:45 am - 3:45 pm, Mid-November
She woke, let the dog out and the moon in. Then she let the dog in and the moon out. Went back to bed. Got up again, eventually. Told herself, "head leads, body follows." This is a fact. Told herself, "all is well." This is a faith. The sky did not lighten up much. It rained, then snowed. Didn't amount to anything. She does not remember
what she did. She does remember who she thought about. Now she is, with cold feet, waiting for the heat and words to come on. The little light of day is falling. The little light of day is shifting, shrinking, like her prayer, behind the trees. The trees stand forward. This is a fact. They shift like we do towards loved ones if anything seems possibly a little threatening. This receding light is possibly a threat, her pen is a little threat to the paper, and the moon will again try to exchange places with the dog.
When we fall away from one another as if ill,
We watch until the chills pass and fever breaks;
we fall within our bodies as if elms in winter
pox transform into lotus shook by shivas,
jingle dancers, into broad leaves, then tango;
a calm torso tossing off enticing green
glances; we follow until meaning is momentum,
deciduous passion returned. We are trees.
Su Smallen, MFA, Hamline University, was awarded Outstanding Thesis in Poetry for her book, This Means Yes. In 2002, Su received the W. Quay Grigg Award for Excellence in Literary Study. Her writing has appeared in the Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies, Water~Stone, and A New Name for the Sun, an anthology of the Laurel Poetry Collective.