The following poems are all from a volume of poetry entitled 'GOOD-BYE TO WHITE KNIGHTS and other moving vehicles'. To find out more about Susan, a spiritual teacher and counsellor as well as poet,visit her website
Men dream the day they find the woman on a horse, hair in the wind, cantering. Unmeasured ecstasy. A magazine dream. Deep down, they fear the affluence and speed; One day she will discover the shallow well, the short night, how small their manhood really is. So after a time they pull back, feign fatigue, tuck in limp to sleep, remind her of her helplessness. Your body becomes a clay drenched field, muddy veins, skin gray. Joined in holy union to your privation, slogging, slow, alone, you pull the horse on foot, by his lead.
At night it seems some holy thing. Large, monolithic, as mysterious and knowing as some ancient mythology. It will plunge you into your own forbidden recesses. It will take you to the secret place where spirits dance a magic dance by campside fires, pulling you into the circle, into the trance. Your hand grasps the rod and you feel power-- not yours but his. You can't imagine the muscle of such will and wanting. He takes you strong and sure. You follow, grateful to be driven by someone who knows, In the morning you are surprised to see how small and ordinary everything is. He, almost clumsy, missing the point, struggling to keep up. The day a swirl around his head, he depends on routine and definition to find his way, imagining the world some sort of plan, and he a king, galloping. How hard he works! The plodding march, oblivious of broken twigs the trampled stems.
She has watched herself move beyond sad into the realm of desperation, where her need snarls against his. She has moved beyond remembering her former necessities: mid-afternoons framed in poetry, gardenia air and tousled half-finished sentences grabbing. Now there is only the scramble for new ground. Time short, her unspoken depths slowly being filled up. Like a sea lion who dives into her familiar pool, to find the clutter of someone else's world fast descending, muting her waves, the rubber tire, plastic pipe, diaper, old shoe. At first something she can swim through, then around, then day by day around is all there is. Gone the clear blue. Gone the clear blue.
It starts as a small little thing, indignation at a trespass, anger, having been wronged. It grows into a flag, parading first down small streets, sweeping up the meanderers, then avenues and winning crowds, cheers along the way. It writes an anthem, builds a campaign. Marching through the mind it settles thoroughly in memory and vein, changing our posture, the way we hold our chin. By the time it reaches bone, it has eaten through sinew and spine, cost us all that was benign. Then, rises up the starless night, no song no light. Suddenly afraid, we want it out: cut, poison, burn the blighted stem. But rampant right breeds cell on cell out of control, And having eaten heart it eats the soul.
Her world is upside down, waiting for the baby. She paces in the night and sleeps the day. She has cleaned every corner of the house, rearranged things twice, then started on the garage. Her belly so round, so full of grace, she cannot feel her legs or in between them. All this will have to wait. For him there is nothing romantic in the coming. When there's not one more inch to spare, one more ounce of air, he'll push his way into the new world. For now, there is still time between the violent seconds. She rises in the night, to cook the peppers, pops the stems and scatters seeds, and marvels at their colors-- yellow, orange, red and green. Christmas in the air! But life starts with a fight, a gritting of his will and single-mindedness. Necessity, the mother of invention. For his first breath, he parts her bone, slow and hard like the resurrection, and moving of the stone.
If you want to hear the mountains, do exactly as I say. There are rules to things like this. And I tell you that many have come this way more than once and have not heard them yet. Listen: You must leave Lima early. The flight at five will get you there by six, before the morning fog wraps Cuzco thick. When that first crest of snowcaps rises you'll feel the thinness of your breath. A quiet ache will settle in the chest. Do not stop for Indian trinkets. Drink the coca tea and then go straight to bed. At four you rise to start again, this time by train. But do not think that you are almost there. The ride will take six hours: switchbacks laced with waterfalls and clustered sheep. Sit on the left to see the Indians wrapped in layered rainbows, black bowler hats and braids, spinning llama yarn outside their homes, the wisdom of their people lost except when kings return in dreams and speak about the stones. At the base of Machu Pichu there will be five hundred tourists bursting from the train like subway riders. Step aside. Let them push. Look up to the right and see the cavern homes where mothers nursed, and children scattered ants for play. Listen to the river rushing madly to you; listen to the rising of your own breath. There are no other sounds. There are no birds. No chatter here. When you can feel the pulse beneath your feet, then start the climb, the way you must, on foot. You are the silent stranger coming to this time. And all the mountains are waiting. Through a thousand years of solitude, they have all been pressing toward this moment of your coming, of your coming.
We look for strong arms to carry us. None forthcoming. Or they come and go and leave us more depleted in the going. We look to find ourselves in the other, always turning 'round the other in pink taffeta, little girl pirouettes, all grown up and still twirling for him, as if some coyness could suffice the long road. We are built with space inside, but confuse the space for emptiness, then mad that no one, no thing, can fill it for us, we stomp away. If the other can't be all, we'll be all ourselves, we say. Come up empty once again. Then banging around, high on hype, insisting the world be round the way we have been promised. One day we finally stop. Stem and petal bruised. The grace of time is in its always coming. Each moment undefined, but now becoming. Pounding pavements in the driving rain, alone, a new mercy takes shape: Life neither round nor square, love sought neither here nor there, but every blossom of its own unfolding. Here sun does not eclipse the moon, nor being with one's self dismiss the other. Intimacy of a new order untangles the pronouns. In the clear blue we are no longer different. Which is not to say we are the same.
"Lean on me," she said, He frail and struggling from days on end with no sleep, now thirsty, bleeding. She, a robust woman, strong footed and determined. They pushed her back. She fought them off. "Lean on me, " she said. Then the hardest part. They laid him flat, and nailed him through, bone chipped on wood, the splinter of porcelain. This man whom she had held on many nights, rocked to sleep in his silent separateness, now crunching. Still not a sound from his lips, so intent on something else. The crowd had thinned by now, bored with the routine. And it was dinnertime. A strange chill stirred the air. And then they swung it up-- the cross-- in one fell swoop, with pulleys and a rope. Him hanging hard forward as if his hands would rip through from his own weight. Then finally straight. His mother screaming "No." And the other Mary doubled silently. Then she felt it, as any woman would feel it. Flowing down between her legs, unexpected, early, bursting inside her, Another season unfulfilled. Then behind her ears, warm and moist, she touched it with her hand, then pulled away. Blood. Blood everywhere, from vein and pore. Hands trembling, frantically, she wiped them on her robes, until she heard his voice. "Take this my cup and drink." And desperate to taste his last drop, she stretched up on tip-toe to caress his blue-black feet, and kiss his blood. Entwined in death and life as man and wife, In life and blood.
Ten thousand pecks they say to break the shell and wiggle free, wide-eyes blinking. Nothing to be done to hurry things. It needs 10,000 pecks to build the beak. What must it think? At 10,000, beats one peck at a time, blind, until the darkness cracks and a different air wraps its flapping cold around it. Light dazes in a rush of smells and greens. Are we too breaking free bit by bit? Certainly there is much that closes us in our own invisible porcelain: the hourglass, and sleepless nights, and lives with sand walls sliding, and everywhere the tight jacket of desire keeps us wrapped around ourselves. Still I wonder if the metaphor itself is not half-cracked. The question never asked: Are we the tiny embryo pressing to be born? Or is there something far unknown fighting for its breath in us-- against us-- cramped, curled and nerve pinched, its oxygen receding? Are we the chick or shell? The cage or caged? Or does some mystery make one of two? That with 10,000 pecks this dark sufferer splinters all our little hardnesses; And then this folded over doubled thing, crammed and squeezed, breaks free and when it does, God Himself wriggles out, ever so fragile, hesitant, still wet, but bodied! And the mystery! It doesn't leave us behind, like some broken thing, an empty shell, but brings us on its frangible wings to a new home, that is precisely wild, and we, clumsy but unfettered, climbing, climbing!