Susanna Rich












What else would it be—this rush

in the trees—veined leaf

brushing leaf as you sit like a maple,

old in its bark, limbs spreading?


That rain pattering the roof of your sleep

is your ovation, as is

the infinite blinking

of beetles, asps, whales.


Dearer and sure is the

unbidden and unbought—

a planet rapping melodies of itself

in the pulse of need and excess:


bees busy in the mint; waterfalls

and dripping caves; blood, wind,

wings; gills and sphincters;

dawn rubbing fog.


What little the tap of human tongue

and hand to this circuitry—

a universe rising up into itself

in gratitude for our breathing.



Television Daddy is not your average poetry reading:

Unlike typical poetry readings, with poets standing at a podium reciting their verse, Susanna Rich, a professor of English Teacher at Kean University





Like Barbara Eden playing Loco Jones on

How to Marry a Millionaire (and later, the I-Dream-Of

genie), my choosey Susie mother was always

out hunting for a millionaire father for

me. That’s why, I supposed, she needed

to learn how to bag and man and kept

Playboys and Penthouses under the red skirts


of the studio couch where (if she was home) she slept.

All that needing-a-father she said I had

was why I had to be alone at nights, and why,

refilling my Cross fountain pen, I dropped

the empty permanent blue ink cartridge,

and, patting around for it, found her slick cache.

I knew it was wrong, but thought if I were bad


enough, she’d come home to catch me. So I

thumbed open the centerfolds, lay them around me

into a perfect wagon train—a witches’ circle of heads to

butts, to heads to butts: here was Miss April wearing

nothing but long black boots and leather gloves, touching

herself with a whip; and Miss Yes-You-May in a

crawl-away pose, rump arched, red as an orangutan’s;


and (my favorite) Miss Cherry June, her long, long

tongue licking (actually stuck to) the popsicle of her finger,

as if it didn’t belong to her.  Fireworks July, Hurricane

August—all those misses of the month—their parts bare;

lips pursed, or puckered, or open—yet not. And balloons

and balloons of breasts pressed together like

babies’ butts (into cracks), nipples hard-pointing


toward me, and me looking back, and touching them—

yet not. If only I could have taught my mother

what I learned from Miss Ding-a-Ling School Belle

September, Miss Hello Weenie October, and the

Spanksgiving Twins—as we held and held and held

and held our difficult poses—but together: that wanting

alone, and making-believe won’t hustle love home.







My sisters have the gimmes, Mounty, want

Daddy’s bucks, and—would-you-believe

—love.  Their fealty is to possess what

resists being possessed—like each other’s


man.  Suck-ups!  Regan, The Ice Queen,

gives him Mont Blancs, frequent flier miles

to the Carpathians, and her husband’s hand-

me-down Infiniti.  How could Daddy ignore


that?  Bi-polar Goneril gives him mood

swings, MasterCard bills, and binge-and-hurls to

shame him into giving in to her what-about-mes?

Gag, it made me gag—their kissy-kissy


of his ring, hands—but mostly his

cheeks.  And all that Sweetest Father, Blood

of my Blood, How Little Money Means 

Make-over Alert!  Get him out of Regan’s Fila,


the studs up his boiled front, and Goneril’s

drunken ejecta. He’s about to stage a tourney

of affection. What for?  Power?

Awe without flux?  Nothing


left for me to give—stranger

to expedience that I am—

but the truth: You’ve sold out, Daddy.  Get

a life.  But he’d rave. He’d stamp his Mephistos.


Now I’m all hung up.  Puh-lease, Mounty:

Bleed my spit for DNA—

tell me there’s 99.999% chance

we three were not sired by the same Lear.





Backed up for miles on US 69 (somewhere on the fringe

of Texas and OK), in my Karmann Ghia, top


down, with a red-faced MACK Titan

butting my back bumper—


and I’m all not-you-again—you history of

mother-trucking, big-horned, side-

swiping, 18-wheeler megaton pulling on your

load, bearing down on me. Frazzled,


my hair all prickly at the roots, I’m about to flip

him a this-is-how-big-yours-is finger—but with


nowhere to run, no way I’d Thelma with him…

Dead-zone, Sirius static, this road hog panting down


on me for it’s-got-to-be hours, and I’m what-the-hell,

what if I turn down my visor, adjust my mirror to jockey


some eye-to-eye with Mr. Big Stuff, and unscrew my

vibrating Maybelline Lash Stiletto mascara—pluck


out the wand, wave it around and around so he thinks it

might mean him—and plunge it back in to pump,


pump, pump it up with no-budge goop and raise it

to my eyes; and something in MACK lets out a squeal,


like an elephant in heat; he huffs, pffts, blows me

up his air brakes; and I’m stroking, stroking


my short curlies from the not-there to the

from-here-to-there—volume, length,


curves—unstoppable Cleopatra eyes for MACK

to make out; and then a Marilyn mouth—round


and round with the Hot Mama gloss to slick up

my rub-rub pucker-up; and MACK is




flashing…yes… flashing his emerg-

ency lights; and I’m licking my front teeth, the arch


of my under-tongue glowing; and here it

comes—ignition, bumper-to-bumper locked—


rocking, we’re rocking, we’re rocking, we’re

rocking…and he turns on his wipers—slap-


slap, slap-slap, slap-slap—raining his washer fluid

all over my back seat; and I’m creaming


my cheeks with Cover Girl, blushing them hard…harder…

and MACK gets on his high beams, transforming my


used-to-be ticked-off frizz into a halo—Hallo;

and the SUV to my right is rolling up


its windows—and the Jag to my left is sliding

its down—and the Volvo in front of me is


ramping up his megabass—pulsing, throb-

throbbing his brake lights red—real red…


What if?






I’m a Diesel Dyke and a Dirty Girl,

the only shtick I need is my Peterbilt’s

with a Honk Honk, Woo Woo, Pshhh Pshhh.


I grow my dreads to my ass, Go-Go Diva of the road—

a beard and ‘stache; brows straight across—

braid the rest—cause I’m a Diesel Dyke and a Hairy Girl.


I keep my knockers to myself, but bear a hickory stick—

banging on my tires to listen for pressure—

going Bonk Bonk, Boom Boom, Pshhh Pshhh.


I’m no cheerleading Barbie with pom-pom mitt—

clip my nails to the quick, grease ‘em up for polish—

ten grimy smiles grinning up at their Diesel Dyke and Dirty Girl.


I’m on permanent vacation with my cargo-go,

hauling meat in reefers, swapping bodies, tossing

my load—with a Grunt Grunt, Boom Boom, Push Push.


A 40-ton Mama, stripping my gears, tanking up, servicing—

I’ve rigged a snatch-up life, cruising pickle parks and stops,

for other tattooed-up-the-wazoo Volvos and dykes.


I’ve got my steroid, hemorrhoid, ‘rrhoid road rage.

I’ve got my hiking, dyking, psyching out ways—

Gaydar Detector, Roadie Protectors for that Shhh Shhh, Shhh Shhh.


Beef jerky in my trap, Bubba Java on my dash—

blow ups, blow outs, pay-as-you-go—keep on truckin’

and Honk Honk-in’ for that Woo Woo, Woo Woo.


The road is my lover and she is me—if you want to get going—

breaker—brake her—and me @ Run Run Run Run

Runaway—your personal Diesel Dyke and Dirty Girl

with a Honk Honk, and a Woo Woo, and Shhh—Shhh.




Sixteen acres and as many rooms,

your husband’s Blue Chips and Saab, yet


Money Thursday, you scissor The Herald

into Monopoly-sized denominations—


better than Washington’s one-buck wig

is this Tropicana girl, fruit for hair,


four bits off OJ; or this Sears chit—

buy-one-get-one photographs


to reproduce you for your grandkids.

Mother of the Mall, why dress for expiration


dates in end-of-season killings

and map your route to mete your


gas for your Stations of the Stores—

Lord & Taylor, Pet Heaven, J.C. Penney?


And the chiming of the registers,

the diminishings on receipts?


Immediate Concession, is it all

for queues of envy whispering behind


your cheat-without-cheating finds—

Gateway Cookies, Tombstone, Press & Go Nails?


Can’t you see I wait for you, decades

behind a door marked No Trespassing?


I, the white angora dress on a brass rod

threaded through my sleeves and neck—


the dress, the one that never goes on

clearance, is never even tagged—


because if you have to ask…Oh,

My Lady Most Clipped, redeem.




All night, the Mets and Rockies foul
balls into the bleachers

and I find myself wanting them

to tip one my way,


slip it like a coin into my blue

plastic commemorative

baseball cap ice cream cup—

for I know now what I didn’t before.


Forty years, God help me, since I failed

to memorize who was on which base

being traded for what

so Don Giordano would love me—


thirty-eight years since Kenny Texa pitched

me a line about going to a guys-only game,

breaking his promise to teach me, instead,

how to park.


Never mind, I never was the kind of girl who

actually liked men waving their bats,

cheered them playing with their balls,

stared at their diamond for all it was worth.


Only fast girls, I told myself, let boys get to

first, then second, and then…well—

it was safer to be a shortstop widow

than a bleacher bride.


But tonight, you steered me to my box seat,

pressed your Carvel and peanuts into my hands,

grateful for my coming.  And I scored myself

a wonderful wife, no longer a girl struck out:


I’m begging for hits, suffering over flies;

give me a tripleheader tonight for all those years,

a game of twenty-seven innings; I want this

study in anticipation, this festival of comets,


this reprieve from a life without bases—

this you becoming a boy again

and me a girl who catches it all

and line drives us… home.







My father wouldn’t lead me down the aisle:

you were a Jew

and hadn’t asked him—

cognac to cognac—for my hand.


Good Catholic Hungarian girls marry

Royal Austro-Hungarian Empire types,

and have children to speak Hungarian

for Grandfather’s Holy Communion and dollars.


For years—no, decades—my father bragged

about The War: how he ministered to German

soldiers, and gave chocolates, Gillettes,

and stockings to their wives.


He brought wine from Polish vineyards

I feared

unspeakably fertilized—

a sympathetic magic I couldn’t bear.


Don’t let them lie to you, he spoke

like a spell over my Holocaust books,

Catholic priests, good people were killed

more than Jews—


Jewish bankers, Jewish doctors,

Jewish control of the media…

I asked him not to.

Robbed of his conjugating adjective,


he can’t speak.

He holds vigil outside our bedroom window,

his eye filling the pane like frost,

assuring himself no children will mix


his blood with the Jews’.

In spring, I gather flowered Seder plates

from Bed, Bath, & Beyond, a saffron-colored tablecloth,

and a new five-fingered vase.


I bury our pots in the garden,

as your mother once did,

to purify them,

so we can all eat.  Dianu.





Susanna Rich – « Ashes, Ashes: A Poet Responds to the Holocaust
Video clips and audience reactions to the April 2011 Kean University performance of Susanna Rich’s « Ashes, Ashes: A Poet Responds to the Holocaust. »





Now, with only never left—

never sun, never air, never rain—

only forever sweat, vomit,

stench, decay—this one human mass


we’ve become, we more-than one hundred,

standing here for days, pressed to,

into each other—burning backs to burning

bellies, our feet no longer feet, our legs


stone—one hunger, one misery, one

despair rocked by some terrible wrench-

ing nurse, her heart a metallic throb,

beating, beating—oh, my love,


let us lift into the always

of now. Let us find each other here,

as you have found me and I

you, in the moments of our lives.


Where they erect this hurtling

monument of terror to themselves—

build our temple of longing.

Make this rocking, pounding, throbbing


our dance of love. Cup my body, as I cup

your body—closer, closer.

Drink deeply of me.

Let my hunger consume you.


Don’t be ashamed of what our dear bodies

have had to do—don’t worry, don’t…

This dark embraces us. Make this shame

the tender shame of first knowing desire.


Heal me with your yes and yes.

Die with me not for them but into us. Slip

your tongue into my mouth where I will

shelter you. Breathe only me and I—only you.


Feel my breasts fill your hollows, as your love

does mine. Come, come. We rise like the moon.

The stars shimmer through us:

you are my salt, and I, your milk








Short bio for   Susanna Rich

Susanna Rich is an Emmy Award nominee, Fulbright Fellow in Creative Writing, and author of two Finishing Line Press chapbooks: Television Daddy and The Drive Home.


She founded Wild Nights Productions, LLC, through which she tours audience-interactive, poetry experiences including:


ashes, ashes: A Poet Responds to the Holocaust; Television Daddy; The Drive Home; and A Wild Night with Emily Dickinson.


An internationally published poet with over 350 individual credits, Susanna is Professor of English at Kean University and was awarded the Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Teaching.





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 and a  testimonial:
“Susanna Rich creates poetry of sensory language disciplined by intelligence. She is fearless in her willingness to engage themes beyond surface comfort—a terrorist’s hands, a daughter’s rebellion, societal cruelties—and the redemption of love. Hers is a poetry of quest—her imaginative vision fuses with what is perceived so that everyday markings of contemporary culture enter unexpected planes of revelation. »


  ~Charlotte Mandel, Editor, Saturday Press 




Department of English

Kean University


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