SuzAnne C. Cole – Four Poems
Thoughts while Recovering from Illness in Patagonia
Shouldering against the sky beyond my window
the Paine Massif, granite mountains shooting
sharply up from the flat Patagonian plains—
Les Torres, the towers, and Los Cuernos,
the horns, twisted granite pillars, punctuating
the mass. Legend says the evil serpent Cai Cai,
after drowning the first people, transformed
their greatest warriors into these daggers
ripping the belly of the sky.
Condors float among the peaks,
and I float too, crisp-sheeted bed a raft
no myth rending my belly, but a microbe,
possibly lurking in a mild, pale cheese.
So no hiking today, strength only to rest,
lift an arm, marvel at muscle and bone
moving beneath the skin, tracery of veins.
I drift, Wordsworthian inner eye inviting
waterfalls, trees gnarled east by goading wind,
a lagoon calming restless flamingoes, guanacos
fiercely defending their meadow harems,
a fox snatching a bit of apple from my hand,
curved black-necked swans cruising among
fishing boats as bright with primary colors
as island stilt houses stalking in mud flats—
flat on my raft, in solitude, I travel still.
The Language of Flowers
My mother gardened, collected vases,
arranged flowers and taught me
their language and to love them.
When I was five, a scarce nickel
bought me a gladiolus bulb (flower
of the gladiators, sincerity,
strength of character). She
demonstrated how to plant it—
flat side down, pointed top up—stake it,
later cut the proud stalk on a slant.
Marigold seeds (cruelty, grief,
jealousy, a desire for riches)
she bought me, their fragile
needle-like thinness transforming
to bitter-smelling orange rosettes.
Together we planted the sturdy seeds
of sweet peas (shyness, departure,
blissful pleasure, thank you),
and trellised their pastel colors,
glorying in the heady perfume.
A neighborly gift, a bare pussy willow
cutting (magic, healing, archetypal
energy, inner visions, dreams);
plunged into a patch of dirt,
it stretched into a ten-foot tall shrub,
furry catkins dusted with golden down.
In the retirement village
before her death, I buy her
blooming plants—baskets of
begonias (a person with a dreamy,
almost innocent nature)
and amaryllis (pride, determination)
–bouquets of roses (gratitude)
and always sunflowers (loyalty,longevity).
Dawn and dusk, we drive warily,
sharing our roads with deer that lay
ancient claim to common habitat.
Droves of them, far too many,
foraging through manicured
lawns, drawing us from ourselves—
bewitching Internet, blaring TVs,
cluttered sinks fade as we gaze outside,
We pour a galvanized washtub
brimful, drought having
shriveled browse and creeks.
As they lift their graceful heads,
whiskered muzzles dripping wet,
we imagine they look their thanks.
Musing the myths of deer—
fleet, magical, and sacrificial to
Artemis, Athena, and Aphrodite.
Associated by the Hindu with
the heart chakra—aware, sensitive,
inspirational, dreamy even, like
lovesick adolescents, aimlessly
wandering from home to home,
ignoring Burford holly today,
devouring it to bareness tomorrow.
Native Americans believe a fawn
living love and compassion
once melted a malevolent demon,
guardian of the Great Spirit.
Freed the path for the children
of God to reach the Sacred Mountain,
commune again with the Great Spirit.
Lament for the fall
In the end, no matter how desperately
leaves cling, their scarlet, gold, russet,
pumpkin, and ochre remnants must yield
to elegiac winds, thundering rainstorms,
or thirty-degree temperature drops.
And so they fall.
Odd how some regard this as failure,
mourn leaves’ inability to prolong
their time, their forcing us to cameras,
paint, and mind’s inner eye to store up
their extravagant splendor.
Yet we know that leaves initiate
their own fall—microscopic abscission
cells appear where their stems join
the branch and scissor the nuclei carrying
fluid from the tree.
So leaves die and fall.
My mother died in the fall, surrounded
by the autumnal colors she loved—bronze
vases, golden candles, orange plaid afghan.
I do not consider her death a failure.
Congestive heart refused to ferry vital
fluids any longer. She rejected medicine,
wanted nothing more than withering,
Author’s Statement on Beauty
What are my requirements for Beauty? Color for one—the egg of a robin, dawn reflecting on the sea, even a coral snake lying dead on the road, its alternating rings of scarlet, ebony and the yellow of 18K gold gleaming even in its stillness. I don’t believe beauty is perfection, however much two Texan women paid cosmetic surgeons to change their already attractive faces and bodies to more closely resemble Ivanka. My notion of what’s beautiful includes a pleasing form and harmony, but also irregularity, the missing tooth in a first-grader’s smile. An element of surprise or the unexpected pleases too as in a Facebook photo of a pink dolphin leaping out of and into the ocean. Or an impromptu flower arrangement composed of a handful of garden flowers and some dried weeds contained in a plain glass vase. Beauty just feels right on its setting.
SuzAnne C. Cole, former college English instructor, enjoys traveling and hiking the world and writing from a studio in the Texas Hill Country. Recent poetry publications include Ekphrastic Review, Poetry & Place 2015, Gloom Cupboard and Vineleaves.