Issue 24: Susan Stewart


Octet: The Trial

At two, a light and a flung-open casement,

a man leans far into the night,

unbalanced, stretching both arms out

as if he could fly (if he were not invisibly

anchored to a floor). Invisible, too,

his tormentor, his judge.  His god–or

more than one, or more, or everyone,

and how will that court be called to order?

Octet: Unfinished

Smaller, infinitely small, like micrographia

in a nutshell. The Gallimard notebook

still in its wrapper, Cette Année-là…,

the joke’s on me. Was I always barking

up the wrong tree? Wrong forest.

wrong ring, wrong age. On the shelf

behind the exhausted librarian: the perfected

herbarium. Check it out.

Octet: Protest

To do something, to be among,

to surge in the excitement of pain, to sing,

to be pressed, to cling and swell and move,

before the hidden end and beginning.

The fierce smile, the raised fist,

the girl’s thrill, lifted onto shoulders,

the rumor mill, the blockade,

the photos posted, the papers, the trash.

Octet: The Looter

His lawn chair on the sidewalk behind a stack

of battered shoeboxes, he sits like a poet,

maybe showing, maybe selling. Maison

Margiela, The Royale-Blanco Gum.

Most precious, Fear of God, Men’s

Suede, made by slaves. By his side,

the charred mannequin, cool at last.

He smiles and gently pats her on the ass.

Octet: Curfew

Six o’clock, the cell phones whirr and leap:

the curfew. The wrens retreat, the woodchucks

dart beneath the wall. At Tommy’s, a mother

empties the drier and packs the still-wet

laundry in a trash bag. Cigarettes stubbed,

the buses out of service. The grocery

shut behind plywood and chains. From

the old French: cuevre-fu. To cover fire.

Susan Stewart's most recent books are Cinder: New and Selected Poems and The Ruins Lesson. She lives in Philadelphia.

Copyright © 2020 by Susan Stewart, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.