17 Santa Cruz Poets — The 17th Annual National Poetry Month - 2012 PreviousNextHome


Susan Freeman

Susan Freeman

About Susan:

SUSAN FREEMAN is a poet frequently sidetracked in the labyrinth of public education. She teaches at Stanford, in schools and institutes, collaborating with visual and performing artists to keep writing and the arts alive for children. Her poetry has appeared in Red Wheelbarrow, Porter Gulch Review, Quarry West, 100 Poets Against the War and other publications. Susan occasionally co-hosts The Poetry Show on public radio station KUSP. She lives in Santa Cruz, drawing inspiration from a sense of place and the ironies of human life caught between the natural and political worlds.


This year there was no summer. Work and random days of heat, 
fog every morning, dark among the redwoods and sycamore.

: :

Seasons move imperceptibly. In the flash of afternoon sun,
yellow and red in the maples, we see time urged forward,
contracting as the air cools, as apples redden and drop.

Light, suspended on this turning point, spreads across the hills 
milky and hovering. The first prunings are burned. The metallic sting 
of smoke rides the narrow valley and catches in the throat like sorrow.

: :

We enter this finite world not strangers but as the worm or fern,
corporate,  belonging,  with work to do. On the edge of winter,
what we choose is our own continuity:  how work and living fuse
at the root of things.

The slowed motion of each task deliberate, defined by need and
the precision of the act. Garden soil spaded with summer's rot,
plums canned, a flood ditch dug, a window caulked.

The sun leaves the canyon at three o'clock.
We are ready for what comes next, gathering in to sustain.
Chill in the hands as ax cleaves oak.

and then rain.


That all the world will be in love with night

Twice in the longest night
waking, I was
startled by stars
in the pitch dark sky.
Scorpio, Orion, on the hunt,
hovering above the houses.
                                    Morning will be frost-locked,
                                    juncos at the feeder
                                    fighting for seed,                    
                                    the air taut and dry,
                                    setting us all on edge.

                                    Weeks of this;  the fruit trees
                                    blown early to the bone 
                                    and winter at the door
                                    thin and thirsty,  wishing
                                    a quick end to a year
                                    mean with chaos,   fear,
Asleep in our cold beds,
so many of us wanting,    hungry
for the indifferent heart to open.
But here in the long dark,
the stars:
                                    a glistening gift
                                    of obsidian night
                                    as we slide blind
                                    into a new year
                                    burdened with omens,
                                    alive with the possibility
                                    of our own awakening.

House of Dreams

                                                                  Un abrazo para Teri Ketchie

The house of dreams is closing its doors.     Hurry.
In a crowded room   a breath of wind     
the sighing of children.   
Slivers of light waiting to waken.

Ay Elena.   Her head cheek-to-wood on the small desk    
eyes big as moons    searching the wall,
a yellow pencil turning in her fingers
against the thin blue lines of an empty page.

She would make a story in her language.  Call it Oaxaca:
       A girl and her grandmother      together up a rocky hill
                hunting herbs    and mesquite for charcoal,
                dirt and hard pebbles in their sandals.
                They sing the one hundred and eighty three names
                for what grows there
      each with its own cure   and the words for that
      for the flowers     the colors of the flowers that grow there
      words for vermillion and ochre blessings
      for the sixty shades of azul
      for the tools that hammer tin   carve animal spirits   embroider cloth
      for the saints’ days
      for the names of the teachers who fought in the zócalo
      who return year after year   naming what the children need to survive:
                chalk and bread
                dreams and textbooks
                pencils and love.


On Rodriguez Street   no herbs grow    
and in Pájaro    where nopales edge
the auto shops and corner markets,
school talk and home talk take sides.
The clapboard houses rattle as Peterbuilts roar
by the packing sheds and closed-down canneries.
Vinegar wind     hissing combines     conveyor belt songs:   
the lullabyes sisters share in their cockroach bed.

A breath of wind rises across an empty playground.
Restless bodies wriggle in plastic chairs
wrestling pencils to paper. 
In the crowded classroom,  books
are borders     and the walls are made of words.
Words,  elusive as prayer,  can save you,
brilliant as a sliver of light.

Silence is no measure of thought, Elena.
What is known of us,    what is our worth if
we haven’t the language to prove it?
Cheek-to-wood on the small desk,  
scavenge your dreams,  their colors,
the pictures in your mind:
the flowers,   the vermillion blessings and
the tools that hammer    to tell the story,
riding the lines of an empty page
in a language abuelita would not understand.

There isn’t time to learn the song of the moon.
It doesn’t translate into essays.
But you can gather nouns and verbs
as if they were the butterflies of Oaxaca   
blue wings     yellow,    
and by swallowing them,  hope
for escape,   for flight.

Ancheta || Atkinson || Crux || Dancing Bear || Freeman || Glick || Ifland || Moody || Omosupe || Robbins || Sirens || Spencer || Sullivan || Sumrall || Tagami || Teutsch || Weisner
  Co-sponsored by Poetry Santa Cruz and phren-Z   A publication of Santa Cruz Writes