Suzannah Gilman

 

 

 

(USA)

 

 

I Remember Where I Was, August 1998

 

Then, when the rain was falling hard

and harder still, I saw in a margin of grass

between the road and the lake spiked

hard by the downpour, a man alone,

three-quarters of the way up

a wooden sculpture, his bicycle on its side

in the grass, while he strummed a guitar

and cried his unheard lyrics into the air.

 

With our windows powered up tight and shut

against the wet and coming August night,

against humidity, against sweat, I was

the passenger in the front seat and yet

it was my van, my mommy van, my four

children, tummies full and sated in the back.

Their father drove us home while I relaxed

until I saw this.

 

I knew so little then.

My hand, the kind you’ve seen before

palming a window as if to touch the passing scene,

acted without my volition;

it just was.  So quickly the scene fell farther

and farther behind me; so steadily

it burned and still burns in my memory.

 

 

Keys

 

When I was a girl

I wanted to play the piano

and in one of the complexes

where we lived

there was a piano

in the clubhouse,

where I snuck in

and tapped my fingers

on the black and white keys,

though there was no money

for lessons for me.

 

Decades later

I leave my daughter’s piano alone

and tap my fingers

on this keyboard instead,

having learned along the way

that one letter after another,

one well-considered period,

one comma to allow a deep breath

make all the difference.

 

 

Ornithology

 

I know nothing of birds

including their names

and I myself

cannot fly,

cannot even sing,

but in my sleep I dream

of a long springing run

that sends me floating,

feet off the ground,

my ruby throat gleaming through trees

drinking each petal of color,

feasting on green-jeweled leaves

and drops of dew from powdered webs,

and, tangled in warm sheets,

I spin those tenuous threads,

one string

and then another,

into a song,

a name,

wings.

 

 

The First Day of October

 

It is some kind of fluttering thing,

red and light and crisp and falling,

covering us with shivers;

 

we cross our arms around

ourselves, breathe deep

the light dusting of leaf-

 

smoke in the air, goosebumps rising.

We fancy fresh apples cored and baked,

forgetting the fruits of summer;

 

our taste, having grown particular,

comes down to this:

we yearn for long shut-away jars

 

of distant spices, labeled with names

familiar as our own.

 

 

I Was a Female Victorian Novelist

 

“Female Victorian novelists were known to take refuge in their beds, metaphorical ships that sailed off the coast of daily family life.” –From the description of a panel held at a literary conference

 

I was a female Victorian novelist

though I never knew it, lying

in my teenage bed, my refuge, my metaphorical

ship sailing off the coast

of daily family life.  I wrote poetry—

because I didn’t know I was a female Victorian novelist.

 

I was a female Victorian novelist

writing from my metaphorical bed, the sofa,

after my husband and three young sons

had all fallen off my metaphorical ship,

asleep in their beds, so I set sail

from the plush blue velour, leaving

family life far behind.

 

Were I truly a female Victorian novelist, I would

have a novel to show for it, not these poems.

But sailing off the coast of daily family life,

I finally arrived here:

where the nucleus is my new man and me,

my children have grown and moved onward,

the old husband buried at sea (by me!

metaphorically!  which befits a Navy man),

 

and in this refuge I produced a book

of poetry, I Will Meet You at the River,

a line from one of the poems I wrote

when my sons were small and slept

piled up like puppies together, while I

was sailing alone through night and day

to where the wild things were in me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bio :
Suzannah Gilman graduated from Rollins College and the University of Florida.

A licensed attorney and mother of four adults, she has published poetry, essays, fiction, and nonfiction.

She lives in Winter Park, Florida.

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