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  • Susan Austin

Four Poems

Love Quarrel with Ixodes

I leaned into you.

My hands, my many bodies of desire

brushing tips of natal grass.

You pooled into me, devoured

nouns, verbs, shoes, lucidity,

the names of flowers, flowers

becoming things. Of all the things

you tried to teach, patience

my failing grade.

Together we shuttered the days.

O the dirt we loved, sagebrush,

the tender places—armpits, ear lobes, labia.

Stealth brown body and eight bowed legs,

the way Houdini vanished an elephant

you inhabited me. Bountiful spit.

We midwifed each other.

Oblate Addresses the Tick

I can(not) walk in knee-high grass

without you


brome, blue-bunch, squirrel tail, fescue.

The question that unravels

undoing. What

memory has made of me, the spectral

word the word

even secrets

I kept from myself

now your cocktail napkins

and your paper cocktail dress.

We are


Your greed to ride my life straight to perfect

laughter is now mine.

Oblate in the Monastery of the Disappearing

Word— “I was only ever brave in the mountains.”

Novelty Shop

Body: memoirist.

Semblance my undertow.

Memory my lost continent, my

haunting, “Like

lanterns of fog.”

: Janis and Rauschenberg on a Greyhound bus; infatuated Churchill

posting a telegram to Wendy; the dewey decimal system.

Continents of pain.

Equally intoxicated by sunflowers and brandy Love


What remains.

Two Feet

after Saint Teresa of Ávila and Carl Jung

You travel the Blue Mountain Province

on borrowed feet greeting barking dogs

merry on the sidewalk. Two feet talk their way home from the bar. Every unknown

wanderer. What the ancients’ images

taught us: madness is divine

Outside the castle with the foul infested you forewarned

the detritus and dead. Ending on a comma. Is she

your bird-girl? Mine? The mystery play

is soft like smoke, thin like air, but I am raw and halfhearted.

Hum for me a lullaby.

Insomniac neurons stripped down to their panties, the bed sheet too heavy

for these two useless feet, You say, God has fallen out of containment. You say, Let

this presence settle into your bones, varied and brilliant, blue-veiled, a cradle

song, sounding sexy, and

I on a streambed of light, leaving

Notes on the poems:

  1. "Oblate Addresses the Tick": Ixodes scapularis is commonly known as the deer tick.

  2. “Oblate Addresses the Tick”: “Your greed to ride my life straight to perfect laughter is now mine” is adapted from a line by Charles Bukowski in Factotum.

  3. “Two Feet": “Every unknown wanderer” and “What the ancients’ images taught us: madness is divine” are adapted from Carl Jung. “Let this presence settle into your bones” is quoted from Saint Teresa of Ávila.

  4. “Novelty Shop”: “Equally intoxicated by sunflowers and brandy Love Winston,” is from a telegram written by Winston Churchill to Wendy Reeves.

Susan Austin is the author of the chapbooks Requiem (Seven Kitchens Press, 2019) and The Disappearing Word (forthcoming from Seven Kitchens Press, 2020). Her work can be found in The Cincinnati Review, Sow’s Ear, BOAAT, High Desert Journal, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Hanging Loose, and elsewhere. She is a former Michener Fellow and is currently at work on a personal narrative about the intersection between illness, art, and the natural world. Susan lives on the west slope of the Teton Range in Idaho.

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