by Susanna Lang

Controlled Burn

I’ve seen park workers
chivvy the flames as if
herding a flock of beasts
that half remember their wild
past, and if I did not see them
on this strip of open ground
it’s clear they’ve foraged
here, the dry grass flattened,
soil blackened, its slender limits
outlined beside the walkway
where someone has chalked
Te amo Dios in green.

And the ground has been made
ready, the first nondescript
shoots pushing up, columbine
and bluets coming soon, then
milkweed and coneflowers
in July, winy asters before frost.
Acércate a mi prays the chalk,
be with me; and the flames
draw near, the prairie blooms.


Late Snow

Tufts on the magnolia
petals, white on white
like the gulls struggling
under the wet weight of it,
street sign blanked out
at the corner. One gull
stalls a few feet in front
of my windshield, achieves
lift just in time. I had already
begun to put sweaters away,
count daffodils and hyacinths
in gardens along the river.

Later a wren slips through
a basement window to find
an alien landscape, free
of snow but also of branches,
insects, navigational guides.
It spins its slight weight in
circles till I push the window
wider and make a path
back into the familiar cold.


Spring Cleaning

My neighbor takes a hose
to his front steps, clearing
the litter of maple blooms
that fell in the last storm.
I cleaned a little myself—
brushed off the bench
so I could sit under the maple
to read, listen to the cardinal
trill from the highest branches.
But I did not sweep the deck,
wanting to feel that resistance
under my feet. Each year

my husband plucks miniature
trees from his flower beds
while I secretly wish
that one would escape him
until it’s too late, a new
body raising its arms
over our heads, speaking
to us in whispers, making
its home alongside ours.



Till last summer a dam
made the water fall a few
feet at this confluence but
still a great blue heron waits
for the tumbling water
to deliver lunch and a dozen
gregarious cormorants
ruffle their feathers
to catch the spray. Nothing
but rain for days,
air and ground saturated,
Virginia bluebells

cupping a deeper blue
against the mud. The river
clambers up the underside
of bridges, suckles the green
of low-hanging branches.
Everything opens its mouth
wide, thirsty for more
light, more drink, more
of whatever makes us thrive.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 22, Issue 1.

Susanna LangSusanna Lang’snew collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was released in summer 2017 from Terrapin Books. Her last collection was Tracing the Lines (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013). A two-time Hambidge fellow, her poems have appeared in such journals as Little Star, Prairie Schooner, december, Prime Number Magazine and Verse Daily, as well as an earlier issue of Cider Press Review. Her translations of poetry by Yves Bonnefoy include Words in Stone and The Origin of Language. Among her current projects is Self-Portraits, a chapbook collection of ekphrastic poems focused on women across the arts. She lives in Chicago, and teaches in the Chicago Public Schools.

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