For the penultimate day of NaFaCaMo, I introduce you to poet Suzanne Edison. To tell you the truth, I have no idea how I met Suzanne beyond the world wide webs, but I had the great fortune of taking an online poetry workshop with her during the pandamnic and have been a deep admirer of her art. Her first full length book, Since the House Is Burning, by MoonPath Press was published in 2022. Her chapbook, “The Body Lives Its Undoing,” was published in 2018. Poetry can be found in: Bracken; Michigan Quarterly Review; Lily Poetry Review; Whale Road Review; Scoundrel Time; JAMA; SWWIM; and elsewhere. She is a 2019 Hedgebrook alum and teaches at Richard Hugo House in Seattle and through UCSF. As you can guess, she’s also a MoFaCa.
She was kind enough to give me permission to post three of her beautiful poems.
Still Life Without Skull The infusions were pulsed too fast, and the doctor admitted her mistake, but the jack-hammering in my child’s head went on for days, not to be medicated away. I watched my girl writhe on the floor like a worm cut in half, and felt I was a captive in a new, infernal circle. And though I can’t see or hold death in my arms, it ticks in us; I think of old Dutch paintings thick with vermillion, pomegranates, over-ripe grapes blooming from true black. Half-eaten meats house a congregation of flies, tenacious strings of gristle and lemon peels dangle over the table’s edge. Here, there is no skull, but the sparrow’s eye flickers, a watch chain in its mouth. When My Child Fell Ill what didn’t kill me, left me drained as bleached coral, spongiform, a holy mess in unmapped reefs. What didn’t kill me lassoed years from sleep, stole cabinets of dreams, chewed up the story lines where monsters never stray from closets, or else disappear by morning. Other mothers fretted over pox and croup, buzzed about their soccer stars, piano prodigies. Well-wishers sent their remedies saying, leave it to God, and stayed away. * What didn’t kill put no substance on my frame, did not gift me a badge, or crown, did not ennoble. Stripped and salted, I left God in her wheelhouse, wandered the over lit corridors of medicine, challenged their priests and litanies. * You’ve prayed for the day when you’ll turn to see your child still swollen with drugs, packing sand into buckets, surrounding herself with a castled home, and like Galileo with his telescope, finally finding the multiple moons of Jupiter, her illness reveals itself, one part of a larger constellation. Ursa Major. Well known to you, but not the brightest star. After Remission, Her First Tattoo It wasn’t the needles, or punctured skin, (rat-a-tat-tat, and repeat) that surprised me— she’d had years of infusions. It wasn’t the ink like an ant trail of dark blood— nothing we hadn’t both seen in the vials siphoned monthly like crude oil from shale, that often sputtered or refused to flow. It was the location she chose— familiar bench of her left, inner arm exposed and soft as morning haze where once tubes were tied above her bulbous vein. And the image, in Roman numerals, their heft like those carved on a tombstone, engraved on a sundial or gold coin— a code one must decipher, something a future lover will rub his finger over or kiss. The tattoo inscribed today marks an expiration to the platoons of bottles, pills lined up dutiful as soldiers; marks four years since the gnat-swarm of her rash and weakness finally lay dormant like larvae in winter. And my gift is forgetting the phlebotomist’s name that I once knew, by heart.