Susan Sklan

 

Because                     

Because her grandmother's mother
admired Chief Sitting Bull as he was
led tethered into town wearing his courage
in a tattered calico shirt.

And her grandmother clasped her hands
and went to court to plea to the judge
to stop a brutal man
from plundering her good life.

And then her mother kicked her long legs up
and danced as a showgirl
with young Sammy Davis.
Fluffing her blonde curls, she partied with Sam
in a "whites-only" club.

Now here her route is of detours
to distant welfare offices and food pantries.  
Sometimes she feels so bad,
she sits herself down in the middle of the road.
Sometimes she thinks of
screaming
and smashing a shop window.

But here, in a cramped living room on a thick
July afternoon, she holds her baby daughter
up to the window and teaches her to believe in
cat and tree
and the rain at the open door.

        

                                                           

 

It is the New Year, yet these feelings won t go away
 

What am I looking for as I scan the sky each morning?
It is the season of hope, 
new calendars and preparations.
Sometimes I dare consider your chest pains.

My neighbor relines an old coat
and hugs herself in the bitter wind.
I dig out my car and heave my bag to travel with me,
full of old notes, an apple and Calvino essays
into the new year.

The sky this morning is gray and hungry,
heavy clouds advance in serious steps.
The dry air crackles electric,
so each touch is charged.
I think of being held and then let go.

Later in the morning snow begins to fall.
It brings a quiet calm to my alert heart.
I listen as I go about my day.

A man sits weeping. He tells me
his daughter just gave birth to a stillborn baby
He held his grandchild in his arms and kissed her.
She was so beautiful. She felt still warm,
as if she lived her full life in that moment.

 

 

 

A close encounter

Unlike last time, you didn t ride a winged horse.
Instead you came back on your motorbike
and invited me to hop on
to explore the awesomeness of the sky.
I climbed on behind you
and hugged your back.
You pulled the throttle, the engine ramped up
and roared, a trumpet blaring
as we rocked off around the moon,
then left to a distant galaxy
light years away.

This journey with you was a welcome interruption
to an otherwise cloistered life.
We were, in essence, flying
at a quantum escalation in space,
looking for our north star.
Were the gods there?
I was amazed to simultaneously see
the whole solar system
and the microscopic details of swarming stars.
You showed me how to read dust
for news of the planets.

Before you dropped me back
to my home on earth,
you gave me the mission
to harness the energy of the stars
to create an alternative history.
Not being Perseus, you didn t marry me on the spot,
but it was a wonderful close encounter.

 

 


 

 

Susan Sklan is a social worker and published poet whose poems have appeared in Nixes Mate, Polis, The Centennial Review, Kalliope, Folio, Gulf Stream, Pleiades, Slipstream, Sojourner, Lilith , Muddy River Poetry Review and others. On passing an old lover s address” was chosen by the Cambridge MA, Sidewalk Poetry Program, 2018, and installed on a city sidewalk.