Susan Kelly-DeWitt










Resurrection Lilies

Lycoris squamigera


An inner ear hears

their glug glug glug

beneath the static

of the visible—


they’re gulping incandescence

from a 40 watt bulb—


wearing resurrection’s

shining raiment.


Their vegetal souls

are praying to Atman


(they look away from each other

toward the open window

but not in argument…)


Their plant brains think

a blue jay’s ravenous squawk

is blessing them.


They sit in their turquoise

jar like swamis, kundalini

spines erect—


snake charmers charming

each other to rise, toward the white

noise and yellow music

of rebirth.


(Prairie Schooner. Volume 80, Number 4, Winter 2006 
pp. 57-60)



Red leaves



The Thorne Miniatures: English Bedchamber

Jacobean or Stuart Period, 1603-1688


The ornate Jacobean cupboard doors (carved

with flowers or suns) hide any linen or sachet

scents, like shut trumpet blossoms at night.


The bed reflects the influence of exile (to scale)—

Charles II and his court in France, where visitors

called on nobility abed in late, fashionable walnut.


A needlepoint falcon swoops on a high-back chair.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre… so anyone sitting

is prey. The canopied bed is draped with rich mint


damask, inviting the wealthiest ghosts (modeled

on the Spangled Bedroom at Knowle). There’s a silver

bowl with fruits the size of a tiny porcelain doll’s


eyeballs. Greenery in needlepoint sprouts

on the paneled walls while the dressing table poses

one glass sequin, iris of mirror, reflecting the small


but true. Here even God’s thoughts must shrink

to kneel on the itsy bitsy prie-dieu.



Do You Ever Have This Feeling


Do you ever have the feeling that

you are standing inside the first atom

of yourself, that you reside

at the very center of yourself

like the stone in a peach?


Tonight you will

try to pass into the body of another, as water

enters the permeable corpus of earth.


Sometimes there’s a buzzing inside you

like a nest of sacred bees.


You wake and light shakes out clear

bursts of gold wings over your eyes.

(A Camellia for Judy, Frith Press, 1998)



Begging bowl copy



Blue Crows


I swear I saw them,

looking innocent

as hummingbirds


each tiled feather

rippling with a glaze

of blue cellophane


light as they flew

off toward the turquoise



as they snatched up

bits of spectrum

with their beaks


and tossed them over

their shoulders like blue



Crows as Marc

would have painted.

Lapis versions


of stylized ka.

Before nightfall, to live,

they will feast


on death’s red

flesh again. They will shed

every iris


feather of tinted

sky light, every cobalt


(To A Small Moth, Poet’s Corner Press, 2001)



Street Musician


His tune began in Bali

that’s where he hid his heart

that’s where he pulled on his hat

and buttoned the four gold

buttons of his tunic.


That’s where he chose his art

and decided on this impossible

posture, left leg splayed out

straight, like clean break.


His hands are white gloves

and his face has that pallor

ghosts in old countries powder on

though his lips are red as dahlias.


If I listen with my spirit’s off-ear

the song he plays approaches

on bare feet.



The Crickets


They kick up a fuss in our hearts

These hot delta nights


These delta nights

As the starlight pours down


In rivulets, in currents, in staggering streams

A silent salient chorus of dying light


These hot delta nights

The crickets belt out their sex song, their hope song


The forewings of love, now that’s a concrete thought

These delta nights, these hot delta nights


The life wish written in concrete

The life wish signed, dated, sealed, and delivered.



Modersohn-Becker: Girl With Stork


Potbellied, rocked back on her haunches between topaz
fruits, one sugared, one bitter, to balance the composition, to
be a third fruit unto herself—as if she had fattened on the
seeds of Paradise. (She wears a crown of shells on her
fontanel to mark the place where the soul flies up.) Behind
her in a reedy maze, the stiff stork struts, like a friendless god
in a spiritual glade—unable to do anything but rely upon the
mystery of the artist’s hands, their urgent mortal weight.



The Letter


Ten o’clock: weak sunlight. A hand pauses

halfway down the page. A letter in the mind,

a few round syllables unwritten.


As when a shadow walks out into a fallow field

where snow has fallen, covering the blanks

where roses might have grown;


or when a traveler dreams her way into another

country, to find the map of a man there,

her confused lover.


The letter will never be signed and sent

in this life. A thumb presses down on an invisible

thorn of presence, and blood beads up.











Susan Kelly-DeWitt is the author of The Fortunate Islands (Marick Press, 2008). Earlier collections include A Camellia for Judy (Frith Press, 1998), Feather’s Hand (Swan Scythe Press, 2000), To A Small Moth (Poet’s Corner Press, 2001), Susan Kelly-DeWitt’s Greatest Hits (Pudding House, 2003), The Land (Rattlesnake Press, 2005), The Book of Insects (Spruce Street Press, 2003) and Cassiopeia Above the Banyan Tree (Rattlesnake Press, 2007) and an illustrated short story The Audience (Uptown Books, 2007).

Her work has been included in many national and regional anthologies including The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (Autumn House Press), When She Named Fire: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by American Women  (Autumn House Press), In Whatever Houses We May Visit: An Anthology of Poems That Have Inspired Physicians (American College of Physicians) and Claiming the Spirit Within: A Sourcebook of Women’s Poetry (Beacon Press). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, North American Review and many others. She has been featured on Writer’s Almanac and Verse Daily. Susan has been the recipient of  a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, The Chicago Literary Award from Another Chicago Magazine, the Bazzanella Award for Short Fiction and a number of Pushcart nominations.

She lives in Sacramento, California and is currently a member of the National Book Critics Circle and the Northern California Book Reviewers Association, a contributing editor for Poetry Flash and a blogger for Coal Hill Review. She is also an exhibiting Northern California visual artist. For more information, visit her website at



Susan Kelly-DeWitt

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