Poem of the Week | January 23, 2017

This week, we are excited to present a new poem by Susan Rich. Rich is the author of four collections of poetry including Cloud Pharmacy, shortlisted for the Julie Suk Prize and the Indie Fab Award. Her other books include the The Alchemist’s Kitchen, a Finalist for the Washington Book Prize, Cures Include Travel, and The Cartographer’s Tongue, winner of the PEN USA Award (all from White Pine Press). She is a coeditor of the essay collection The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Crossing Borders published by The Poetry Foundation and McSweeney’s. Rich’s poems have been published in fifty states and one district including in the New England Review, The Gettysburg Review, and World Literature Today. Her website is www.susanrich.net and she blogs at www.thealchemistskitchen.blogspot.com.
Author’s note:

Recently, the artist Leonora Carrington has inspired much of my work. Carrington’s paintings and sculptures are difficult to categorize, but she is often grouped with the surrealists, yet was also heavily influenced by Hieronymus Bosch. For me, the brief news headline “99-Year-Old Woman Wakes Up to Find an Exotic Animal on Chest” brought forth an iconography that Carrington would have loved (wild animal, bedroom, crone). Of course I didn’t understand that this was why I was drawn to the news story until the poem was finished.


99-Year-Old Floridian Wakes Up to Find

~with a line from William Butler Yeats

In the morning she finds it—
a kinkajou curled on her chest


like an unexamined question.


Its tail loops around her waist
and the stubs of the ears twitching—


thick snout wet against her neck.


The woman murmurs in half sleep,
keeps calm (her Miguel gone for decades).


And now this living warmth—


the open window, the clock’s hands,
the glass of water by the bed—


each shimmers as she strokes


its matted fur, feels the breathing
of this feral thing she’s never known before—


and is not frightened by the scent


of pungent dirt and piss.
In her mind a green canopy reopens


of breadfruit and palms


overhung with hummingbirds
and her husband’s contralto song—


she moves her lips along his beard,


follows through the deep heart’s core—
ecstatic for this dual citizenship.