Tag Archives: Susanna Lang

Thrive
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.

 

Flood

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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A Small Death
by Susanna Lang

A bat drags its broken wing along the pavement
flutter-kick flutter-kick
and I can do nothing.

Its fur is a glossier brown than I’d imagined.
It doesn’t belong in the daylight
but I can do nothing.

Young women with their dogs on leashes chatter in unintelligible languages.
Elsewhere, people are dying the sudden deaths of war
or the slow diminishment of famine

but this small death is taking place at our feet
while clover and columbine bloom sanguine at the edge of the path.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 20, Issue 2.

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.

See all items about Susanna Lang

Visit Susanna Lang’s contributors page.

Review of Susanna Lang’s Travel Notes from the River Styx

Travel Notes from the River Styx -Lang
Travel Notes from the River Styx
Susanna Lang
978-0998215907
(2017 Terrapin Books)
$16

Review by Michael Eddie Anderson

Travel Notes from the River Styx is a carefully crafted study of a soul journey. Although the work is not personal in the narrow sense, it does focus on family. We live through the saga of a dying father, watch a mother giving piano lessons, and meet a son going off to college. But the larger reference is to the human family, including emigrant peoples, their experience of displacement. In “Migration” we hear their voices: “My family came to stay/ but not in one place”. The monk who says “My real country is not a place…” speaks for all those whose identity is less geographic, more relational.

Among the most striking characteristics of Lang’s poetry are its wild leaps. As in all good writing, the metaphysical rests on and arises from the physical. The poem “In the Rearview Mirror” turns our eye to five migrating Sandhill cranes. The birds stand motionless, “the long/knobby legs of their resurrection still”. This is the epiphanic leap, but the setting couldn’t be less so: a traffic jam.

Lang shows us we’ll find splendor and ecstasy in the pedestrian. Yes, these are Travel Notes and we do indeed pole down a mythical river, but as the opening citation from TS Elliot reminds us, in every true journey we “arrive where we started” – we end up at home.

Many unknowns await us before we get there. In the title poem, which opens section three, we’re spelunking in Mammoth Cave, its cold river running under our feet. The cavern’s name refers to its size and seeming endlessness, and in these images, Lang finds powerful metaphors of disjuncture and confusion.

The cave may be made of rock but “the border is porous”. There might be a river but it is “flowing so slowly/it almost isn’t a river”. And those etchings on the walls—they’re “written in candle smoke”. Added to all this indeterminacy is a father’s decline through dementia. The final section, a sentence fragment nine stanzas long, evokes this bewilderment:

…this dream

of drifting, low in the water but never sinking, never

snagging on a fallen branch, never touching the shore

where we walk beside the river, endlessly, our muscles

aching, the boat just out of reach—

And so it ends: abrupt, unsettling. We’ve drifted along the river only to come suddenly to a falls. Out of control, out of options, we find ourselves asking “where/has the ferryman gone, how do we call him?” But isn’t it always this way? Whether on Chicago’s elevated train or Charon’s dark waterway, the one thing we can expect is: “destination unintelligible”.

Some poems give us comfort. In Travel Notes from the River Styx, Susanna Lang gives us more. She’s a wise guide on a dark river every human being must learn to navigate.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 20, Issue 1.

Michael Eddie Anderson has been an editor at Rhino: the Poetry Journal and now serves on their advisory board. His poetry has appeared in New Verse News, Matter Monthly, Rhino, Pen Woman, the Poet and Artist Chapbook of the Northwest Cultural Council and other journals. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.

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). Read her poem “Confession” in CPR Volume 20, Issue 1 (April, 2018).

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Visit Susanna Lang’s contributors page.