From Vol. 9: Three Prose Poems by Susan L. Leary

Poetry: Susan L. Leary

Joyful Poem, with Nearsightedness

We enter the world able to detect the earliest upheavals of atmosphere. Each morning, the thousand strokes of dawn refusing to settle into sky. & for what? To stay or flee an invented storm? To make lists of things mourned before their arrival? We do this, even, with the edged infinities of our bodies. Come to part & parcel our complicated selves. Our limbs scattered, shivering in the broken warmth of a still-sunlit sky. Were I to look around the room, I could tell you the people I love are getting older, & that in getting older, they are no more prepared for anything that comes next. Perhaps why every person is said to die a child. What would it be like, then, to apprehend on our very first day our own ghosts moving towards us? To see that closely, that in the very spaces reserved for ourselves, is already God. The sky joyed with its own steadied abundance, & the world but rain falling through rain.

Before Bed, & When Nothing but Evening Feels Infinite, I Ask My Husband to Braid My Hair

I do this because I am silly. Though mostly because the probability one of us will experience the death of the other is 50%. The ax will break clean through the center of Zeus’ skull & that night, we will wish we had prepared more scrupulously for our dying. So nothing fancy, I say. Nothing perfect. & sitting on the edge of the bed, myself on the floor, my husband agrees to look after my childlike failings in memory & self-care. Gathers in his hands three palmfuls of a human history & lets me pretend I am weak. Because everything about him is kind & serious & full of meticulous resolve, sometimes we laugh. So sure he is to study the growing wilderness of gray hair. To memorize the over & under of strands in their playful hide & seek. So that night after night, each braid will be categorically different & I will feel better, though my head will ache from the tender accuracy in my husband’s eyes & bones. The ends tied. The same exacting physicality wound into every myth. Precisely the point … When I am nothing more than worm food & archaeology, who will risk reminding me of myself? Who will love me enough to crawl through gnawing roots & into the immensity of a grave, if not my husband, holding on to whatever excess of a past life neither God nor a resolute earth with allow.

X-Ray Impression #3: Pain Crisis

Imagine a world where wrecked is wrecked. Where only is the bone-ache of knowing what it means to have a body. Imagine, then, the ire of a man’s ribs forced by his spine into perpetual exile. His lungs halved & cramped into the interior space of an inhospitable room so sophisticated in its pain-making, every breath must be brokered. As if breathing were an unusual thing. Imagine, now, the desire for respite requires a self-infliction of new wounds. The foolishness of his hands failing, again & again, to rip open the chest at the very sites in ruin. That even grief is patently negated. The body, cruel to refuse any speaking out against it. Thus, the erratic writhing in my husband’s limbs. The contorted face-clutch of his mouth into his eyes. Were it enough for me to take his hand & simply hold it. To wait for pain to tire & stop. That we might enter a world so terribly literal & there be nothing more to imagine.

Susan L. Leary’s chapbook, This Girl, Your Disciple, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2019. She teaches English Composition at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. Find her at


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