Susan Spear – Four Poems
She mouths the hymns and the responsive readings
from her wheelchair parked by the second row,
and when the pastor says, “Greet one another
with a holy kiss” folks stretch and stir,
but Evelyn shuts her eyes. She has no need
for this forced, new-fangled fellowship.
At eighty-five, she thinks, “I’m done with kisses”
(her mother’s red lips tatted on her temple,
her father’s quick obligatory pecks,
a string of boys with hungry, hollow lips
and sixty years of kisses from a man
all barbed wire and boots).
But this morning, in this country church
the backdoor greeter shuffles down the aisle—
it takes him 90 years—eyes open wide,
He stoops down. His knees crack like gray branches,
and then he smacks his dry lips right on hers.
Her eyes fly open to blue irises
and dust motes floating in the glass-stained light.
We sit above the columbarium
(a word I learned tonight)
on a wooden bench. Our shadows stretch
oblique and thin behind us.
I squint into the fire of the sun
to consider two congruent crosses.
One stands here, before us in the garden
rough like the bench on which we sit.
The other rises distant, small, and smooth.
A circle rings its metal bars.
I can see us in the noon of youth
standing straight with little yet to lose,
our shadows short and blunt.
Yet this evening in the youth of age,
unraveled as I am by death and loss,
I ponder the intersection of our lives
and gratitude defies
the gravity of grief.
There’s pansies, that’s for thoughts. Ophelia
Today a purple
trimmed in violet,
a shock of yellow
at the core.
These humble warriors
my garden’s borders
were idle plains
of hardened dirt,
and my midwinter
Now they stand, between two steepled pines
which face the north side of the country house
where for years, their hours and days espoused
the cause of always and silently entwined.
Twilight slides between green snowy needles
and limns their wrinkled faces from the west,
as April robins, two neighbors, and one guest
hush themselves inside this spare cathedral.
She wears the color of Hawaiian sand.
He, a jacket matching hers, and bolo tie.
The septuagenarians comply
and play into love’s patient, proffered hand.
For years, their vows were tacit but unbroken.
Tonight, words curl in cold spring air, spoken.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
Jane Kenyon spoke about poetic imagery in terms of the “luminous particular.” She used concrete images in her poems that she saw as “luminous,” or catching her eye in a way that she could use them to build a poem. I believe everything in this world is potentially luminous, and I want to study it. These poems began as lovely images: pansies, blue eyes, a wedding under a tree covered with snow, and two crosses rising in the evening sky. However, we live under a shadow of death, disease, and conflict. These realities are not beautiful, but present among them is the beauty of a life-long, loyal friendship or “flowers bloomin’ crazy” (Dylan). May we each have eyes to see the luminous in our particular world.
Susan Spear, poet and librettist, holds an MFA in poetry with an emphasis in verse-craft from Western State Colorado University. She teaches poetry and creative writing at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado. Her poems have appeared in Academic Questions, The Anglican Theological Review, Mezzo Cammin, Dappled Things, and many other journals, both print and on-line. Her poetry manuscript In Ordinary Time was a semi-finalist for the 2016 Crab Orchard First Book Prize, and her one-act libretto The Price of Pomegranates was scored by Jerome Malek and appeared on stage in workshop form at Writing the Rockies in July of 2016. She serves as the Managing Editor of Think, a journal of poetry, reviews, and criticism, housed at Western State.