Selected Poems


All poems ©Susanne Barrett, 2006-2014. All rights reserved.
Portions of poems or poems in their entirety may be reproduced only with permission of the author.

Poems are arranged alphabetically by title.

Blank Page
The allure of a blank page--
my fingers twitch with desire
to sully the sheer whiteness,
to impose my will upon its untarnished purity.

I want my words to rain there,
rivulets of phrases dripping,
dropping down the white sheen
in even rhythm,
thoughts contained
by faint blue lines,

I want to scrawl thoughts,
make them real by
transcribing that which is trapped
in my head,
slipping from idea
into words.

I want to triumph over
this blank page--
declaring it as mine
the way bold explorers claimed
the New World
centuries ago.

breathe this day
the past...
the future ...
wrapped in fears,
sealed with tears.

the present
shimmers, shakes,
demanding my attention:
the volume requires reply.

but I run--
escaping boundaries of my present,
of home--
boxed in by walls
and clamoring needs.

I slam the door behind me.
but I can't run far--
only to porch steps
bepuddled by morning's rain.

chill winds grasp my face--
I gulp the shifting of cloud
into cramped lungs.

and now
I can breathe

Celestial Navigation
Each day goes so fast--
voyaging, we embark,
weatherworn mates,
compassing unfamiliar seas.
Shall we navigate by the stars?

I turn around—and it's past.
Our children older by a day.
Time speeds through my fingers
like hempen sail cord
as we tack clumsily,
struggling to split wind.

Our vessel heaves
upon white-tipped brine.
“Squalls Ahead”
warns teenage years,
We secure the boom once again,
returning to our course.

The salt breeze stings my eyes.
Submerging my fears,
I weep my love.

Don't Speak
He bends over me,
work-rough finger against my lips.
“Don't speak,” whispers his eyes--
I take heed trustingly.

His love pleads with mine,
trying to prolong our moments–-
time, elastic,
can only stretch so far--
at its limit now.

Fifty-nine years had been ours.
As my feathery mind grasps at memories,
blurred, shadowy-sweet –
first date,
first dance,
first kiss,
birth of each child --
two of the four preceding me into eternity.

Joy, grief, more joy,
a life simply ordinary --
all seemed unbearably sweet
in my hazy retrospect.

My gaze sought his,
and we spoke our love wordlessly.
My fingers curled feebly around his strong hand
in these last, still moments
as the elastic finally gave
and I went onward...


Easter Life
Proudly he shows his egg
dyed greenly-blue--
a small earth
of continents and seas
enclosed in his palm.

Child, you hold a world:
beneath colored surface
the boiled skin glistens whitely,
encircling a sterile yolk--
a life once possible.

Your life, mine--
all life possible,
enclosed in His palm
as sun peeps between hills,
the whitened stone yields--
revealing His deserted tomb.

"True love lasts forever,"
she said,
trailing her fingertips
through their years.

Theirs had been the tale often told:
love entwining,
twisting time
into binding cords,
cutting her delicately
if she struggled--
the scars unseen.

Unless, of course,
one gently gauged
the depths of her eyes....

...but no one did.

with the sleep of generations,
weakness and strength
quilted together,
pattern to pattern
layer to layer
with nearly invisible stitches
delicately swirled into
yellowing cotton,
passed from mother to
daughter to granddaughter and onward--
the handiwork of a Time
without hurry or rush,
without screech of horns
or cacophony of telephones.

under this now-fragile quilt
marriages consummated,
babies birthed,
children sweated through measles,
old ones took last quiet breaths.
generations slept
comforted by its heft
warmed by weave of
warp and weft,
work-worn hands
pushing needles
through taut cloth
again and again
in the fading evening light.

we fear what
we hope for.

not fully-fruited,
stunted by drought of
encouragement, faith, time.

planted in fallow ground --

plucked by
fractious birds
after the blossoms drooped,
before fruit budded forth.

fades to indistinct memory
as the frost again descends.

midnight storm

shoving up the wide window
I peer into midnight skies
purpled by city lights.

I grip the wooden ledge,
watching the roll of coming storm
obscure the few stars.

lightning first illumines deep skies--
swirling wind hovers
then the thunder groans,

delayed by its slower nature,
delayed like the pain following
a violent slap to my face,

humiliation and fear flushing along
my cheekbones more brightly
than mere physical hurt.

should I turn the other cheek?
let the ache, so tightly tethered,
wander where it will?

allow the unspeakable a word
or two, or perhaps let an image
splay across my mind, fully open?

memory pummels, angry fisted,
demanding liberation,
but I keep all safely fettered.

the skies open wide to the storm, releasing
a downdraft of freeing wind,
a downpour of cleansing rain.

My Grandmother's Clock
Centered over the rising heat of our stone hearth,
the mantel clock clicks its rhythm,
marking the minutes, hours, days, years
serenely in its pagoda.

Its antique face smoke-kissed by home fires
and by my grandparents' decades of cigarettes,
settled deep into a dank corner atop the bookcase
over the droning television--
their god, worshiped day and night--
beside the World War II commendations and photographs.

This clock ticks the passing time
as surely now as then,
watching over us with impassive face,
not judging--simply absorbing everything
with beautiful, ancient eyes.

Remember (Ash Wednesday)
O woman--
the dust of you
(body heart soul)
formed in
My Fingers,
My Palms.

O woman--
as the burnt sacrifice
across your forehead,
I brand you
as Mine.

O woman--
My Love flows,
(My Heart to yours)
as you kneel,
your contrite tears
opening My Embrace.

O woman--
You, who are dust
will return to dust.
My Breath brought life
to you, woman,
with a Holy Kiss--
and with another Kiss
shall you return.

second skin
her love cloying,
too sweet to be savored,
leaving a tainted aftertaste.

once flower-delicate,
now glue-ish --
white stickiness
clinging to him.
in time drying clear --
a second skin.

taking a layer with it
when he peels it away,
no matter how carefully.

Solitude II
Shading my eyes from
the unaccustomed glare of the sun,
I twist the pen restlessly,

Words drop in to visit,
look about,
take their leave.
Occasionally a few decide to remain,
clustered together in absorbed conversation.

Images are greeted,
link arms with one another,
decide to stick around for a while.

Only alone --
Only in peace –
can I capture the words
that seem to wink at me--
teasingly beyond my grasp.

At last I clutch them,
tie them down
to the page where
they seriously consider
surrendering to my will.

Silent Ice
He pulls at the silence,
tangible, weighted.

In the darkness
he reaches,
touches her arm...
no words come.

But the silence speaks,
a familiar bedfellow,
stifling their tonights,
crippling their tomorrows.

With the buzz of morning alarm
normalcy returns--
slightly cooler than before,
frosting each new day.

The chill silence breaks
with mundane reminders:
his doctor's appointment at noon,
her meeting after work,
while layers of ice thicken and crackle.

A little thing of
a song it is--
composed in keen stanza.

Muscular language
hefts soul-weight,

The union of Creator and poet--
a divine marriage
of meter and image
birthing glory.

So I jot on,
seeking the mystical union
of starry climes and blotted ink.

But my images stumble,
shapeless shirts in my dryer
spinning round and round.

I grasp vainly,
trying to capture nebulous thought--
burning my fingers on hot metaphor.

Impressive images escape
the tip of my pen nib
where ink enters vibration of thought.

Is such grace intended for me?

Or am I as an appreciative listener doomed to
politely applauding others' gloried imagery
while stifling my own cracked voice,
unable to carry the tune?

Traveling in Colorado
Hemmed in
by flat-topped mountains,
our motorhome only a tiny ant
crawling between, among
vast brown expanses of grasses,
passes crowned with snow,
gray-green pines shielding the over-modest land.

“Pass with Care”
advises the square white sign
alongside the deserted two-lane --
wisdom given not only for highway travel,
I think.


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