Gifts of Art and Soul
Writing poetry is like a pilgrimage for me into what poet Stanely Kunitz called “the telling of the stories of the soul.” After my mother died I needed quiet, and I also needed poetry at this time to stitch the threads of my sadness into poems.
This craft of writing poetry helps me to stop and stand still in the din of a day—to notice what I don’t take time for– -to reflect on with poetic language the magic, mystery and meaning my life holds. As my late friend and poet RC Willliams once said when describing what poetry meant to him: Poetry is the most profound way of approaching one’s own being.”
Quill and Parchment
Susan has been selected as a Featured Poet for the online journal called: Quill and Parchment
“While Listening to Thich Nhat Hanh”
As the two lanes tunnel through jungle
and signs warn Curvas Peligosas,
we let Mr.Lucky’s broccoli truck,
heavy on our tail, pass.
We listen to “Lessons of Impermance”
and the calm, gentle voice of the monk,
You can empty yourself of passing anger
by bowing down to earth.
My husband steps on the gas to beat
the round bellied truck marked Gasolina
and we whiz by a row of wreathed white crosses
and shrine with marigolds, a baby angel on top.
If you don’t know how to die
you don’t know how to live,
words whispered as the Mercedes bus White Star
comes at us and thunders by.
Green glows like peridot on parota, papaya and palm.
Vines string purple blossoms across the road
from weeping fig to ficus.
We drive beneath nests of the cacique
hanging like brown bags from the end of limbs,
this bird’s way to protect her babies from prey.
The singing bowl on the CD soothes me
as it lingers in air
like the white wings of the mariposas
By Susan Florence
* Curvas Peligrosas was chosen as a finalist in BorderSenses poetry contest and published in BorderSenses Literary and Arts Journal, Volume 21, Fall 2015
A review of Susan Florence’s chapbook “A Stunning Absence”
by Wilda Morris for her monthly Poetry Challenge, August 2015.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 1, 2015
August Poetry Challenge: A Grief Poem
Grief is a natural part of the human condition. Although we know that we and all those we love must die, we struggle to deal with loss. I recently reread A Stunning Absence: poems for all who grieve, a chapbook by Susan Squellati Florence. She has given me permission to share some of her poems.
“Cousins Weekend, Monterey,” deals with the death of a child.
We cradle her, hold her fists
as best we can, not one of us knowing
how to live after a child has died.
I lost a grandchild more than twenty years ago, and those lines pull at my chest. I know their deep truth.
“Waiting for a Patch of Blue” puts us in a sanctuary for a funeral:
The church stood large and cold.
When the blind man played
the piano, sang Ave Maria,
not one of us could move.
Then the poem takes us on the highway toward home. The narrator is in that emotionally empty (my word), having to return to every-day life:
I listen to the windshield wipers
follow the broken white lines on Highway 101,
keep my foot on the gas.
Here are two poems from the collection:
White Mariposas, Mexico
Our mothers are leaving us, like white butterflies
they lift. I look out above lighted jungle leaves
and watch them rise in pure ascent.
Dear cousin, your email says, Mom Is Failing Fast.
I wish I could be with you now, back
in the summers when we were country girls.
There, I can see Aunt Annie in her apron,
hear her call and the wood screen door slam
as we carry our secrets in and out, out and in.
Ice tea waits in the tin pitcher with cool water
pumped from the well, and vine red tomatoes
sliced in Wonder bread sandwiches.
Raucous, yellow-bellied kiskadees wake me here,
like the cows that bellowed us out of bed
on hot August mornings at the ranch.
They wake my thoughts about your mom and mine,
dear sisters, they are leaving us, like white butterflies
they lift, and we can’t touch them as they fly.
~ Susan Squellati Florence
Almost One Year
It happened somewhere between the broccoli
and yogurt, or was it in the soup aisle
that my sister knew
she would never see him again.
She could not breathe
or control the course of her chest,
and held on to the shopping cart
for how long she does not know.
Wandering the market
where he shopped for her,
she followed the metal basked
until it filled.
One apple, one power bar,
one energy drink.
~ Susan Squellati Florence
“White Mariposas, Mexico” shows us a narrator mourning for her aunt and her mother. Her aunt is dying.
There is a bit of ambiguity about whether the narrator’s mother is also dying or has already died. Either way, it
is fresh grief. “Almost a Year” shows us the narrator’s sister dealing with the loss of her husband a year after it
happened—a reminder that grief has many faces. It can overwhelm us at the time of a loss. As the poem, “An
Undeniable Joy” demonstrates for us, eventually joy can break through.
Like poppies along the road
Sprouting in dry soil
But those blossoms of joy do not wipe grief out of our hearts. Even years later, something happens, and
the grief takes away our breath. We talk about the grandchild who died, and tears flow, though twenty years
have passed. We look out a car window and see day lilies like grandmother grew; the radio plays a song to
which we danced with our now deceased partner. It is graduation day, or a wedding, and it seems so wrong
that one parent is no longer living.
Another of my favorites in the collection is “A Young Woman Writes to a Composer,” but I’m not including
it here, because the women in question seems to be dealing with her own approaching death, which
is outside the bounds of this month’s challenge.
In the interest of full disclosure: Susan Florence is a friend whom I met at the San Miguel
Poetry Week in Mexico, and I know the person whose death is lamented in the title poem.
A Stunning Absence is sold by Finishing Line Press
Susan Florence is also the author of a gift book, When You Lose Someone You Love. The book, designed with
illustrations of nature and water, is was written with few words, It is intended, she says, “as a caring gift to
give someone after they have lost someone they have loved. . . . even many months or years later, because the
ones we love live on within us forever.”
It can be purchased here at Amazon- Losing Someone You Love
Susan reading from A Stunning Absence, poems for all who grieve.
POETRY BY SUSAN
Where Bach Takes Me: Concerto #5
As printed in Common Ground Review 2014
2009 Award Winning Poem
On The Meaning Of Things
2007 Award Winning Poem
(click on title to download pdf)