Alison Carb Sussman


Alison Carb Sussman






Alone Together


Almost I touch you  Almost one finger hovers over your hairless chest

Almost our lips come together   Almost I reach your shirt waving from your fire escape

as barren eyes of buildings stare me in the face

Almost our thighs move against each other in the narrow stairwell

Almost the lit cigarette trails smoke down the deserted dungeon of school at 4 p.m.

Almost the dewy fount of feathers in your eyes   Almost your dancing skin in the crush of traffic

outside old gated walls

Almost the smell of peanut butter in your hapless tangled hair

Almost a boy weeps in baggy pants in a small park and nobody comes

Almost my watch broken its parts shattered under the clock in the subway station

Almost we two skip over cracks in the pavement hilly with expectations

Almost caressing graffitied tree bark as flames flare up from our fingers

Almost the rank taste of sludge-covered fish from the river

Almost the sharp salt taste of your tongue in my mouth

Almost making monstrous faces in the mirror in the boy’s bathroom

Almost seeing the homework gods in their chariots thundering down from heaven

and anointing us with high math scores

Almost writing poems from a room full of dirt

Almost brushing my fingertips across the jawbone of the sky

Almost running from you in the playground, then coming to rest in your glistening arms

Almost lying skin to skin on the bed in your room the heady smell of sweat between us,

the pulsing bird’s breast of desire on love’s field strewn with ancient ghosts




Letting Go

After Henri Cole


When my friend Aipa and I had the I’m-moving-back

to-India conversation, she folded blouse after blouse,

her hands dark lotus blossoms, and said,

“People come in and out of your life,

some of them you care about deeply.”

Shadows from tree leaves flitted

behind the curtains.

I stroked the clothing piled

on Aipa’s warm red velvet couch,

listened to the familiar slap of her slippers

against the floor.  “Tea?” she asked.  I nodded.

We stood at the stove, her head just past the top,

watching the water boil in the gleaming white pot.

She made me sit, and brought me tea and rice pudding.

Aipa had a pixyish face like my mother,

who moved away as did other relatives.

“In India, my whole family is waiting for me.

You want to see the latest pictures?”

She spread her family out before me on the table.

I examined the photographs, and let them drop.

Some became wet with tears.

Aipa put her hand on mine.

“You must learn to let go of those you love.”

The shadows retreated from the curtains.

When it was time to leave, I walked slowly to the door,

closed it gently behind me.





After Roberto Bolano


I am the mother of all the cats

the plump lumbering protectress

of these homeless waifs

I let them roam

through the pet super store before

I opened

I was the only human in the store

when terrorists destroyed the towers

killing 2,749 people

that sunny summer day

May that day live forever in our memory!

I unlatched the cats cramped cages

to set the poor creatures free

and most poured out

among them a fluff tailed Persian

and a Siberian with flat ears.

I stroked them, gave them food

so sweet some are, so gentle when they’re petted

I tried to hug each squirming one in turn

pressed my lips to their unbrushed fur, listened

to their plaintive cries

such melancholy sounds

while dust from the collapse of the buildings

even ten blocks away

seeped through the cracks in the glass windows

and a film of ashes settled

on the rows of green labeled cat food cans

on the cichlids swimming in their tanks.

For all I knew the world was ending

and fires outside were burning.

My duty was to be with the cats

to fight for their small lives

to give them their last taste of freedom

before the fires consumed them.

I am the mother of all the cats

of the fat orange tabby furiously clawing

a tattered dishtowel,

I gathered some of them into my arms that day

cradled them and sang them lullabies

they scratched, bit and scattered

hiding in dark holes or under shelves.

I let those who remained run back

and forth in the enormous aisles

through the terrifying history-making noise

from fire engines and ambulances outside.

I lined the store floors with Friskies treats

so every cat would find its way back

to me

so I could return them to their cages

and open the store to ghosts.











Alison Carb Sussman‘s chapbook, On the Edge, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013.  She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2015.  Her poem, “Acting Like a Woman,” is scheduled to be printed in Gargoyle #64.  Her piece of poetry, “Reuniting With Mother at the Zoo,” was published in The New York Times on June 8, 2014.

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