Susan Rich

Polishing Stars

My mother believed in the strength of labor
over love, she'd torture each microbe, disappear dust
on two bent knees bearing down on a faux marble floor.

And when it was scrubbed beyond question,
past reason, she'd call Su—san, handing me a faded rag
and ancient tin of something cool as resin:

A blue-green glaze to brush across the burnished forms
of copper reaching out beneath the breakfast bar;
at four, I played a worker cursing the ravaged stars.

After You've Gone, The House

Falls deep into disarray; dishes
cleansed by the cat's rough tongue,

her whiskers skate along the dinner plate's
gray rim; soon pyramids of underwear

rise above the hallway's long horizon.
Days I stay indoors answering to no one.

Seasons change, change back, unfinished,
rooms, half-painted, hold no door frames.

Light bulbs die, the wood stove's without fire;
some days you call, the voices overlap

trapped along a wire: hello / good-bye/ hell hole.
The compost bin and worm box mock desire.

In the Beginning

You call and offer me
June strawberries
with organic cream;
drive over with two dishes
balanced between your
knees. Steering, shifting,
you negotiate bridges,
freeways, traffic circles
to appear undeterred
by my front door.

Tilikum, Totem, Tristar— From blue glass bowls
we lift this moment
to our lips, deftly fix
the berries on our tongues;
we taste what is feral, what will keep,
re-shaping it later in our sleep.

Susan Rich is author of The Cartographer's Tongue / Poems of the World, winner of the PEN West Award for Poetry and the Peace Corps Writers Poetry Award. Her next book, Not a Prayer in this World, is forthcoming from White Pine Press. She is the recipient of a Fullbright Fellowship to South Africa and an Artists Trust Award. She lives and writes in Seattle. Her web site is