Susan Rich

Susan Rich

Susan Rich is the author of three collections of poetry, The Cartographer’s Tongue / Poems of the World (2000) which won the PEN Award for Poetry, Cures Include Travel (2006), and The Alchemist’s Kitchen (2010) which is a finalist for the Foreword Book of the Year prize.

She has received awards The Times Literary Supplement of London, Peace Corps Writers and the Fulbright Foundation. Her appearances include the Cuirt Literary Festival in Galway, Ireland and the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia. Recent poems have been published in Harvard Review, Poetry International, and The Southern Review.

Although born and educated in Massachusetts, Susan now makes her home in Seattle, WA. Please visit her web site:


for Kimberly

Occasionally, we start from scratch.

A new roadway, a country, a woman
who commands us, mirame.

We travel roundabouts as if they might
teach us to negotiate

cloud caravans out of the city,

out of the rhythm of doorframes
accompanied by Lorca

postcards and Nights at the Alhambra tea.


I want to give you
syllables you can eat: tapas

of local tomatoes touched with ephemeral cheese;

oranges and lemon fruit
the size of scabby babies.

For you, I will silence the mourning doves

and offer the tilt-a-swirl of swifts
lifting up and out of the pepper tree.

And although I cannot gloss the language

of porn stars
for you, I’ll purchase flash cards

of post-modern anatomy.


The night was cracked

and there were motionless salamanders;
the red signals of the Fiesta

lighting the windshield and the water
spray from your body ~

As you squatted before the A7, before the great tankards of gin,

the world was yours
a quirk of moonlight in the queendom.

first published in Pilgrimage

Picture Postcard from the Valley of Paradise

On the road to the pueblo, I could be thinking
of you, photographing lemon groves:

their branches bright with yellow porpoises

passing over me in miniature.
The Mediterranean languid

in her blue chaise lounge,

fluttering and faithless below.
Tonight, the wind will speak to me

visit along sprawling vistas ~

subjunctive pleading with our lines ~
an if we could have

shudder and shoreline ~ a flamenco

of release. In the morning, before
the mailman and the garden hose:

I wonder, what the rest
of our lives might know.


~ Fundacion Valparaiso, Spain

Mornings, Sebastian arrives to water
the gravel and then, who knows why,

circles the hose round the driveway –
harmonizing, repeats the task again.

After touching the corner balcony,
the pepper tree looks as if

it might know. Perhaps the branches
communicate with the sea –

or don’t, who can say? If Philipp
photo shops in his boxers,

Benjamin composes the National
Symphony, he reveals, nude.

Dinner is included –
a menu of unmistakably

grey food. Mackerel casserole
or mushroom? Who would say

why the Serbian shaves her head
or if the German is really in love?

Perhaps, this is what purgatory is like –
the taste of ash and of flowers,

the long approach to what we meant to say.

first published in Pilgrimage


— Andalucía, Spain

I am smack in the middle of the story:

In the middle of Mojacar
at mid-day
when the air hangs down like a woman’s underwear.

Violent and strong ~

I am in the middle of a life,
mid-point of the year: July
when the radio plays halfway through the tango ~

a middle pancake gone wild.

I don’t want to reverse
or advance.
Praise be to the center of the novel

before the crescendo –

as the characters begin to unwind.
The second teacup in a row of three.
Untethered from the point of departure

or the future’s shore.

Not the fruit’s rind
or its seed, but the
experienced heart’s core.

Poetry in this post: © Susan Rich
Published with the permission of Susan Rich