Susan Nordmark


No rules but to be a fool. Where everyone started: sitting, fourteen, in a theater in summer. Lush air conditioning wraps you in freon fur. Feeling his shoulder against yours, his arm teasing your neck, you turn your face toward him, brush your cheek against his shirt, and the scent of his body floods you. His fingers close over your small bones. You stroke him with your palm. Going nowhere but here, fools together, learning the rules of skin, how to become wise.


The song was “Love is Blue.” We all swooned back and forth in the half-dark. A boy picked me for my height. His hands pressed the gritty voile of my dress against my waist. He rocked like a duck. I wanted him to push his hands further down along my hips while swinging to another slow song. Afterward he took me to the punch table and offered me red liquid. I swallowed a sip of sugar water.  A fast song played and the top kids jumped like woodpeckers. You have strawberry mouth now, said the boy. Let me kiss it off. He leaned toward me and I walked away to the girl’s bathroom. I looked in the mirror and wiped off the juice. Then I took out an azure lipstick and drew a new mouth for a new boy.

Author’s Statement on Beauty

I thought at first to say i don’t concern myself with “beauty”—but that’s entirely wrong. I don’t look for it as an overt subject. But i value language so much—it is, perhaps, everything to me. Image, sound, shape, voice, exactly the right words, clarity. The unexpected is where i want to go—opening, surprise. To take myself, and the reader, somewhere—into an experience. Experience is what it’s about: aliveness. Aliveness is what i seek, and that’s where the beauty is–sometimes a difficult joy, a hard gratitude.

Susan Nordmark’s essays, poetry, and journalism have been published in Draft: The Journal of Process, Porter Gulch Review, Matrix, and other places. She studied evolutionary biology and anthropology at UC Santa Cruz and Harvard, and now writes fiction and occasionally dances in Oakland, California.