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2 poems by Susan Rich

After Great Pain—

You’ve earned a weekend at the inn.

Insight resides in the toiletries and Egyptian sheets.

Invent a footpath to your interior world—

then look around without regret.

Innocent again you take inventory of the self

and realize there never was an influenza

of the soul. Forget sex. If you’d like,

you can become invisible. Walk

naked through a railway station until a deep voice

on the intercom announces:

outgoing train to Strong Relief—

Know that the inability to stay is

no crime. In your next incantation

invent the answer to living without love.

What the maps won’t tell you

is how the story ends, if he travels

across oceans to rescue himself-

herself like a stubborn harbormaster of the heart.

The maps don’t mention vast underwater volcanoes

of lovers or the different archipelagos

in the shape of penny candy, the lingering vowels—

followed by one moan-filled consonant.

Would you consider journeying to True North

how might we travel there—

ferryboat or pirate ship, sunfish or float?

Do you know the lighthouse is also home to the foghorn—

have you ever thought about

how this morning’s sound and light show

is an improvised soundtrack to keep us safe?

Marie Tharp constructed a map of the ocean floor

although she’d never visited there, no one had,

and eventually she drew her dimensions true.

Her map told her what hadn’t yet occurred.

You can draw coordinates out of darkness—

you can build a map where one wasn’t there before.

Sweet poet, you can cross oceans—know a little of what is unknown.


Susan Rich is the author of Cloud Pharmacy, shortlisted for the Julie Suk prize, and The Alchemist’s Kitchen, Finalist for the Washington State Book Award. Her poems appear in the Harvard Review, O Magazine, and World Literature Today. A Gallery of Postcards and Maps: New and Selected Poems is due out from Salmon Press in 2022. She lives and writes in Seattle, WA on the edge of the Puget Sound.


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