"I am hearing poetry when awake, dreaming poetry when asleep, breathing poetry with each breath, I am living in a poem."

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Bending Normal

Rules, they put up barbwire
and I’m hell bent on getting cut,
lining up for absolutes is like
drinking Kool-Aid with Jim Jones.

Oh I look suburban enough,
two dimes in my pocket, conformed enough,
but I cut my teeth on bending normal.

I was the fat child jumping hoops until
I cried enough tears to stop giving a damn.
Kids either picked on me or didn’t pick me.
There’s a lot to see when you’re on the outside.

People have been tossing up “You’re weird” as far back
as when name calling got its first number 2 pencil.
I have too many voices in my head to worry about
those who suffer from lost imaginations.

When people are planted in their chairs,
I am the one dancing alone in the middle of the room.
Oh I know how to rein it in, calm it down, sit still, listen,
but I also know how to bolt when the room gets too stiff
to step outside the lines…Life is too short to not break crayons.

 ©Susie Clevenger 2016

Day 26 #NaPoWriMo 2016

I found this poem from 2016 on my blog in drafts. For some reason I never posted it. 

Real Toads ~ The Tuesday Platform
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Sunday, December 3, 2017

You Can't Quibble About Harvesting

Reginald Southey
Lewis Carroll (1857)
Fair Use

You ape my bones
with your humpbacked muse.

I am buried under the glass
of all the mirrors I tried
to cut into reflections
I could never carry.

I stare at the twisted glory
traveling up and down your words,
and I find mine are grossly inadequate.

Every haunting needs a host
so I will slip between your ribs
where the moan needs ink.

If there is nothing new under the sun,
you can’t quibble about harvesting.

What’s yours is mine.
My cup is full…Yours is empty.
I can turn your art into gold
while feeding you pennies.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

As my muse would have it this image took me to Spotify. I have a lot of music friends and the business of music is grossly unfair to them. "Songwriter Would Need 288 Million Spins to Equal Average Spotify Employee Salary." Read about it here.
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Poetry Doesn't Quarterback

Poetry doesn’t play well with football.
It prefers a glass of wine and silence
to bleed from, not a tackle or concussion.

I cannot Plath, Neruda, or Cummings
to beer commercials targeting testosterone.

There doesn’t seem to be a door
impenetrable to the noise or sturdy
enough to keep a cat from clawing opinions.

I’ll just add this to my list:
She wrote but didn’t create.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Note: I watch football at times, but Monday night my muse and I couldn't take any more poor ball play from the Houston Texans quarterback or the noise as it continued to vibrate from the other room. Disclaimer: No husbands were harmed in the writing of this poem.

Real Toads ~ Tuesday Platform
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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Blessings in Ordinary

Morning arrives in its routine
of aches and grumbles, but I welcome
the sight of a coffee cup sitting in its usual place.

We are weathered, chipped friends
ready to perform  our ritual hand to handle
dance across tile to an oak chair.

There are blessings in ordinary.
I watch the wild life outside my window
with my hands wrapped around the warmth
of familiar, and gather strength from a companion
who never utters a word.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I Am a Key

I am a key searching
for an opening, a door
that leads out of the rabbit hole.

Framed portals line my prison.
I’ve been pressed into a thousand excuses,
peeled confessions from my metal,
but every door asks forgiveness
and I shrink with every why.

How tall is a heart?
How rusty is a lie?

I am the key to every door,
yet I still search for the answer to freedom.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Real Toads ~ The Tuesday Platform
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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Coffee, Tea, or Wings

Tipping Point by Anne Byrd

“Who would deduce the dragonfly from the larva, the iris from the bud, the lawyer from the infant? ... We are all shape-shifters and magical reinventors. Life is really a plural noun, a caravan of selves.” ~ Diane Ackerman

Morning arrives on dragonfly wings,
and I wonder who I’ll be
when my coffee cup is empty.

Is there an edge I must walk, be a diplomat
when I want to enter the war of words,
bloom where worry tills stones?

My mind keeps writing script my spirit must edit.
Anger wants its outrage, laughter its comedy.
The wing shift brushes silver in my palms.

On the outside I look my scruffy normal,
but within I am a tea of tipping points.
It is hard to know which brew will win.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Ann Byrd has graciously given permission to use her art print, Tipping Point, for our creative inspiration at Real Toads. Please visit Ann on Facebook, at Ann Byrd Art or her website, annbyrdart.com to see more of her incredible work.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Orphaned Stone

The sky empties its womb
into the November night
in light burst limbs that reach
through eternity to glitter
eyes hungry for wonder.

Monotony, war, the mudslide
of divide is the swamp dreams
walk from sunrise to sunset.

Bloodshot eyes travel the rift
searching for a miracle and heaven
gathers every orphaned stone
into fire streams to delight the forlorn.

Thanksgiving builds its nursery
beneath the arch of stars,
willing hearts bend toward gratitude.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017


sundowning arrives
with agitation and tears
night is her sorrow

her weathered hands reach
for yesterday’s window sill
strangers block her view

squeaky wheels wander
echoes whispering from rooms
hell is paved with tile

©Susie Clevenger 2017

For those who might not know the term "sundowning" I have provided a definition. My mother had Alzheimer's and every evening she suffered the trauma of sunset. My mother died in November, 2007. I still grieve.

Sundowning, or sundown syndrome, is a neurological phenomenon associated with increased confusion and restlessness in patients with delirium or some form of dementia. 

Real Toads ~ The Tuesday Platform
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Sunday, November 12, 2017

The War

The war is coming.
The war is near.
The war turned
young into ancient.

He was too young
to know confidence
can shrink with a bullet.

Chest wide into the brag
he marched the swagger
of a man of eighteen.

War became real when
life walked a target
of kill or be killed.

Buried in blood, mud,
and dreams of a Missouri sunset
he crawled toward an enemy
to keep horror from booting
its way to home and front door.

The war came.
The war left scars.
The war turned youth into hero.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

The photos of are of my father-in-law. He was only seventeen when he enlisted. The army was supposed to only take young men who were eighteen, but war being war he went. He turned eighteen in a bunker in the Philippines taking on enemy fire. 

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Eye On The North

We’re all carrying keys
believing we own the door,
but truth moved just
beyond the alarm.

are digging a fire line
so unity can’t build a bridge.

Peace keeps its eye on the north
hoping sanity will silence hawkish tongues
foolish enough to threaten winter.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Real Toads ~ The Tuesday Platform
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Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Scissoring of Malice

The glory of her hair
falls in a rippled sacrifice
to the scissoring of malice.

Jealousy grinds its quarrel
into petty glass to wound
the spirit until it bleeds sorrow.

A mirror reflects but doesn’t own
golden locks echoed in its silver.

To wish is hope…To believe is trust…
beauty grows in grace with every note
sung from an insolent choir.  

©Susie Clevenger 2017

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Jealous October

October breathes
its final sigh through
the bright colored brittling
of frosted sunlight.

Soon the goblin march
of tricksters will bleed
candy dishes until bedtime
dreams the midnight hour.

October stretches her limbs
into the wind and jealously
drops her jeweled leaves
so November will be forced
to arrive in a dress of faded brown.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Real Toads ~ The Tuesday Platform
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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Feathers Through Broken Glass

I write myself through rooms
of musty memories, dust fog,
and lonely breathing through
a hand’s reach of five lungs.

Elbow to elbow we fed
on silence until leaving
was the only thing
we could digest.

The house was too small for the pain,
too angry for laughter, too weighted
with unspoken.

I don’t know how we grew wings,
but each one of us pulled feathers
through broken glass until the sky freed us.

Joy whispered where sorrow wept.
We were a house of twisted oak,
but love was never a sparrow’s nest
built from hollow words.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

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Thursday, October 26, 2017


I am quilted among stars,
a spirit of many colors
birth stitched from
first cry to my autumn
walk through graying years.

I am my mother’s cotton print,
my father’s grease stained denim,
the torn corduroy of play grounds.

I wear rebellion, compassion,
spontaneity, art, on a body
swimming against the
falling leaves of calendar pages.

I am a quilt I will never finish,
a thinning thread spool stitching
moments on days until death
takes its needle and stitches me into dust.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Love Boiled to Vague

Arms wide in the narrow reach
of love boiled to vague,
she chased illusion until
real got in the way.

Half of her daydreams
were bound in the sticky sweet
briar of “she can tie the knot
to save the fire”…

The other half stuck pins
in balloons trying to escape
a fool who followed a trail of hot air.

Naiveté didn’t survive wild roses. 

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Real Toads ~ Micro Poetry ~ Binding With Briars
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Friday, October 20, 2017


The color orange doesn’t look
good on him…He looks liver pumpkined.

For all his ruff there isn’t any substance.
Bully brag is a rucksack strapped to ears
tired of the chaffing wool of incessant dividing.

Be-trump Be-muse Be-little…
Nickum was rot before he stole the vine.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

I used these words from the list provided
Ruff : To swagger, bluster, domineer. To ruff it out/ to brag or boast of a thing
Be-trump: To deceive, cheat; to elude, slip from
Nickum: A cheating or dishonest person

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Garland of Red

They’re only over exuberant children.
Boys will be boys...What breaks
didn’t have enough backbone.

Turning, dodging, my name turned foul
by a bully’s chorus edging the dance closer
to bruise my skin.

Don’t cry! Don’t cry! If the dirty words
bring a tear, my dreams will be infected.

The snow outside is writing a Christmas card
in the school yard…I’ll be a garland of red.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Real Toads ~ Cruel
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Saturday, October 7, 2017

School of Innocents

They wanted legs, feet, sand between their toes,
lungs filled with harmless hide and seek.

Mermaids knew the sea, salt laced lips,
the whale song vibrating survival,
but nothing of the crusted path of humans.

Like a school of innocents they swallowed the hook
love came unmolested by greed, by betrayal,
by the glass world of exploitation.
Oxygen and heels came at the cost of freedom.

The sea will always sing of home,
solid ground a mournful hum of withering.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

                                   by Thomas Eakins (1910)
                                                 Fair Use

            Real Toads ~ Camera Flash

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

There's Still Time for Ink

We can mold our fingers to a trigger.
We can hate with our words until we’re killing.
We can damn the dawn and fail the living.

But love still shines in a baby’s smile,
arms still lift when a soul cries,
and music still bridges the political divide.

If the pieces fall, we can mend.
If hope is dim, we can be a candle.
If the peace song is unwritten, there’s still time for ink.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Real Toads ~ The Tuesday Platform
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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Digital Revelation

a blowhard’s tongue,
an eye of a hurricane,
both storm the human spirit

the callous rake of wind and words
feeds on the bile of aftermath

the humane seek to aide life
and pour hope into the broken

the world peers into the digital eye of revelation

©Susie Clevenger 2017

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Eight Metal Letters

My father’s name
immortalized in aluminum,
once rested on top of his mailbox
as a marker for home,
mail delivery, and gravel dust,
now hangs nailed to my library wall.

It is an odd thing to connect so strongly
to its metal silence when I am stuck
in the white noise of wordless, but
it challenges me to escape the chained
introspect my father lived in.

He walked more in his mind than
he did with his voice. The world within
boiled like a teapot without steam.

When silence smothers, I rebel with
a keyboard, conjure words
from the taped tongued persistence
I have nothing to say…

Perhaps it is my totem, 
eight metal letters  urging me to speak.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

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Friday, September 22, 2017

The Senators Won't Swim

There aren’t enough dollar signs in care.
The blood’s in the pool, but the senators won’t swim.
Black hearts pad wallets with Koch
while charity drinks light from the bottom of the barrel.

Set a table with stars and stripes, strip a vote,
pat backs too spineless to walk near the raw edge of truth.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

FF 55 at Verse Escape
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My Eyes Are Green Plaster

My eyes are green plaster,
the scent of hell, a muffled cry
pulled from the roots of a last smile.

Tears gather shadows to parade
across the ceiling and soot secrets
into my eyelids where nightmares hide.

Normal plays hide and seek…I twist
my doll’s hands into prayers, but their
plastic God only cares about ruffled lace.

Giggles join hands…Pink cheeks chase the sun.
I am a ghost dressed in hand me downs,
two shoe laces away from their ring of rosie.

I chase crows…They sing of robins.
Eenie meanie...The Monster drinks daylight.
My eyes are green plaster and I can’t speak plastic God.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Fireblossom Friday: "The Distorted Lens"
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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Rainbow Affirmations

I like to collect rainbow affirmations
to put color in my book of words
to counterbalance the dark day collection.

Even the most infinitesimal brush
with serendipity brings rapture
to a mind fed in soundbites of doom.

Branded heretic I prefer my butterfly faith
to a testament that digs channels so deep in rules
a soul can never be sure it can identify freedom.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Ardor of War

"We're goin' down
And you can see it too
We're goin' down
And you know that we're doomed
My dear
We're slow dancing in a burnin' room" -
John Mayer

What is this alliance,
hip joined battle plan
to defeat our hearts
before they are consumed?

Shadows brush our secrets
into a moon bin and we think
there will be no war in goodbye.

The heat of our bodies sear
us with memories, blush stained
scar bearers storing moans
our skin will never forget.

The dream slayer loves a standoff.
It rallies fools to the cliff edge
making bets who will fall.

Yes stalks us with its treachery
surrender holds no defeat.

We ignore the enemy ticking
on a shelf chasing stars toward the sun,
and continue our war in a burning room.

 ©Susie Clevenger 2017

I used Grapeling's word list from September 17, 2014.
art, war, attack, fire, capture, neglected, ardor, tactics, energy, alliance, treachery, scheme, tenderness

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Monday, September 4, 2017


I fear raindrops,
the communion
of water and hell.
Nothing grows in drowning….

How long will it take
to write away terror?

I will ask the Lily when
the river leaves it to bloom.

©Susie Clevenger 2017
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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Ankle High

I dance the drumline,
the steady beat of surviving
pulsing through legs
mud etched by a river scream.

There is hell in high water
fighting the Jesus strength
to see another tomorrow.

I breathe cries, the steady moan
of desperation, the death howl
raking hope I’ll ever reach solid ground.

Breaking through the horror
I hear a camouflaged Gabriel
crying, “Keep walking, your feet
can carry you beyond the water line.”

This mud sludge apocalypse
demonizing water has been eager
to write my obituary, but I’m crossing
into the ankle high salvation of an angel horizon
shining with the warmth of two reaching hands.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

As many of you may know I live in Houston. Hurricane Harvey (tropical storm for us) has caused, well, hell in Texas. My family and I are safe and didn't experience flooding. I wrote this poem for those who had to take the treacherous water walk to safety. The photo at the top is Dawn looking out Lake Houston where we live. The song is one my daughters, Dawn and Carrie, wrote around a year ago, but rerecorded it in my kitchen after the worst of the rain passed. 

It is hard to explain how we felt or how we feel now. Perhaps this will give you some insight. A friend of mine, Dr. Donna G Hughes, who is a psychologist states it this way.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Hold Me Tighter Than Memories

Dance me to the center of your heart
where I can see moonlight in crimson.

Hold me tighter than memories,
and together we’ll choreograph
joy into the shadows.

We are scars tied in a lover’s knot
growing starlight in our palms.

Yesterday can no longer chase us
when we’re breathing soul to soul.

©Susie Clevenger 2017
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Sunday, August 20, 2017


I watch dust dance in the sunlight,
uncaring, oblivious to where it will land.
It floats a notepad skim across my desk,
and like a child I write my name,
an impish autograph unintimidated by legacy.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Hip Preach

Spike heels tap concrete
as I rhythm walk the street hum
until my body drinks enough song.

Palms raised to glass eyes
I hip preach to desk dwellers
to swivel to their feet.

There’s a revolution in the groove.
Angry can’t hold its ground
when lip sync fuels a smile.

Spirits ride rainbows to the streets
in color splashes of unique until
gray surrenders the dance floor.

The universal joy of feet freestyling
to their own drum hums through my body.
I deep breathe electric and side step another hallelujah.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Damning for Damning

"Picket lines and picket signs
Don't punish me with brutality
C'mon talk to me
So you can see
What's going on
Yeah, what's going on"

What's Goin On ~ Marving Gaye
Songwriters: Alfred W Cleveland / Marvin P Gaye / Renaldo Benson

Break the stones from our tongues.
We sin troll for every prejudice,
ignore the songs of peace,
and cry blood as if wounds
had more power than listening
eye to eye.

Your fault, his fault, her fault
never reaches the conclusion of my fault,
damning for damning leaves us
invisible in our own mirrors.

Feed the dragon…Expect the burn.
The bonfire will turn to cold ash
if we stop feeding it bitter words.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Real Toads ~ The Tuesday Platform

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Woman Up

A rusted padlock hangs
between my breast and ribs.
I lost the key a hundred
heartbreaks a go when
the tear swamp grew teeth
and tore a hole
in my starry eyes.

It wasn’t bitter that lost the key
or the clinging ribbons of lost love.
Reality stormed in like a bitch
who knows her truth and tore
the pink curtain from my daydreams.

She taught me to woman up,
a few bruises on my spirit wouldn’t kill,
and building a wall around my heart
only makes me the prisoner.

The rusty open lock and I are friends.
When I struggle about letting
someone in, it reminds me
empty feeds too many ghosts.

 ©Susie Clevenger 2017

 "A rusted padlock hangs between my breast and ribs."  Is the first line in my poem Every Glass Slipper Fits A Fool.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Thumbtack Me

Go ahead, thumbtack me
to a bulletin board,
give me an bright ink moment
before I disappear beneath
the grocery list.

I am a rush of words,
a begging promise,
a handwritten beginning
scribbled on a coffee stained napkin.

Pressed into cork I face
a battle with time, errands,
and dirty laundry for attention.

I can’t reach…I can’t walk…I can’t talk.
I am a moment’s light burned into paper
hoping to become a poem.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

I Never Planned for Fading

Art by Karin Gustafson 

Perched on my toadstool throne
I contemplate my realm
of weeds and rodents.

I had petitioned the gods
for a crown, a purple robe and
to rule an ice cream summer kingdom.

Oh, the curse of dreams that
only see with water color eyes.
I never planned for fading.

I was told my golden road was a carrot
selfish could never reach…There’s
no magic in a tongue of sticks and stones.

Blame is hard grain to chew,
so I self medicate with tears
poured from my violin.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

The perfect accompaniment to self pity is Aase's Death from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1. I've had one or two pity parties lately. I think making myself the cry baby in my own poem is cathartic. Nothing goes well with whine except..perhaps..of course..humor.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

First Tongue of Dying Words

First tongue
of dying words,
the journal erases
before the ink dries.

Eyes search for familiar
in a sea of dead names.

The quilt turns inside out
as I sing a lullaby in
my mother’s ear.

She falls asleep searching for her baby.
I’m wide awake wishing she could find me.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Real Toads ~ Scribble It
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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Starlight Owns An Instagram Page

It holds a thousand dreams,
broken voices, midnight caffeine
drugging awake long enough
to keep the tap shoes talking.

Marquee lights wink names
until the day stalker robs bulbs,
but music poured into minds
will survive beyond red curtains and
bows soliciting applause.

Walls climb through traffic rumble,
homeless begging for another dime
to burn a vein, and couture clothed
plastic personalities whoring another fifteen
minutes from camera lenses to faux claim
starlight owns an Instagram page.

Left is right and right is left, backstage hustles,
onstage looks for a mark, and settings change
in electric movement and human push.

Reality takes a break in a seat nosebleed high
to watch miniature figures claim their original
can steal thunder from “There’s nothing
new under the sun.”

©Susie Clevenger 2017

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Lobster Numb

The devil’s in the details
and we dance blind.

Bully bloat, science won't matter
 until denial gets bit, orange alliance,
great is downgraded to embarrassment.

Keep the fossil in the tank, air bleak,
and water selling higher than oil.

All that pulpit thump preaching hell
has a highway through Armageddon
forgot to consult Mother Earth.

She’s been saying for ages there’s
a burning coming, but humans are lobster numb,
denying they sulphured the match.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

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Friday, July 14, 2017


    The Death of Albine ~ 1898 ~ John Collier

You wreathed my body in flowers.
I didn’t know guilt could come so adorned.
You knifed my spirit until I could no longer breathe,
drained the roses from my lips and danced
with the devil until I sought angels.

I hate parades. This march of black sleeves
parading across my cheeks seeking notice
is a hundred clowns away from truth.

How many more rumors must ears taste
when they are already fat with lies?
I lay here sentenced to dust while
a covey of scarlet offenses claim piety.

Is revenge truly sweet or merely the stench of decay?
My body will be absolved from my spirit’s consequences.
I will not go quietly into my tomb of draped lilies.

I will be the roar in a pillowed head counting sheep,
a stalking wolf devouring rest, a wraith ushering
my tormentors into the open throat of their madness.

Here in this time before wings I gather names
in the hollow cave of my breast until I know
how many shadows it takes to coal dust clouds
in an unrepentant sky.
 ©Susie Clevenger 2017

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Morning peels us from bed
in onion layers until we stand
night drugged on two feet.

Swiftly the sun steals the lover’s chat
from our lips as we snap and grumble
our way to the calculated time of caffeine.

Two souls entangled in memories
prepare to wander through daylight hours
searching for a break in the fence.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

In 1968

In 1968….

I was wild weed drifting
in flash notes when July burned
deliverance into blue eyes.
Naïve had long been plucked
from fragile leaves, but I blushed
the virgin pink of a first kiss.

Born female in a stone garden
I was feral glass, boot high,
waiting for the next shattering.
In the summer hum of guitars
you were a place of roots, sunshine,
a prince guiding my heart to my own rescue.

In 1968…

My world turned upside down
and I wasn’t hurt in the fall.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

My poem was inspired by these beautiful photos.
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