Letter to America by Susan Rich

One Poem

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When a mourning dove flies up from the land, the sky
Only seems to embrace her. The erasure of color, of movement
From the field, the shrug of wings—
My eyes keep watch long after the bird
Flies off between wave clouds. The panorama
Pleases because it is not me. Does not possess
Worries or regrets, does not listen to the news,
Only negotiates with shining scraps of paper,
The pine cones along the side road. I’m still staring
After the stormscape—seeing emptiness as incessant
As the mountains suffocated in fog—
Ghost lives that alter over the time
It takes to button a coat, adjust a shirtsleeve.
We’re invisible to ourselves though we look
For solace through floor to ceiling windows,
Like through a profound and distant lake,
I try to swim through the day.
If I take in the morning landscape
Like a vitamin or a psalm—can it
Sustain me? My appetite for telephone pole
And steeple, shoreline and shelter—
Seems like a spell I cast on myself. Let me
Be owl or otter, sea lion or serpent—
Whatever it takes to still stay me.




Susan RichSusan Rich is the author of four collections of poetry: Cloud Pharmacy, short listed for the Julie Suk Prize, The Alchemist’s Kitchen, finalist for the Washington State Book Award, Cures Include Travel, and The Cartographer’s Tongue, winner of the PEN USA Award for Poetry and the Peace Corps Writers Award. Her work has been published in all 50 states including in Antioch Review, New England Review, and O Magazine.

Header photo of dove in flight by flosca, courtesy Pixabay.

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