Dear Constant Barking
Afraid none can parse
your one request?
Consider the clouds, cumulus
and lacking the urgency of crows.
You could practice crowlessness.
Better yet, study harmonics.
Even wind chimes, plinking,
syncopate their notes.
Your persistence, a sign of—what?
Fire and ice. Nagging:
the phone ringing, the tea kettle’s
whistle, a child’s tug at the sleeve.
I’m beginning to feel bad
for stutter dog. No, starting to think
you could practice forgiveness
until there’s no one left to forgive.
Then what good your refrain?
Old lessons ride the air:
less is, put your money where,
do unto, catch more flies with.
Dear Automated Call System
Let me guess: you’ve been going to therapy
for passive-aggressive behavior.
I’ll guess again: holding back
my chance, making me wait,
you’re in a state of denial
and I’m the dog you won’t feed.
Yesterday I forgot my dead mother’s birthday.
There’s hope for me yet.
Last night frost turned the red maple
buds brown. Frost, always full of surprise.
Time is on no one’s side, and drought
is forecast again for summer.
I used to be a good speller,
does that count?
I used to sketch parakeets,
does that count more?
One of us in the house got a haircut,
the other refuses to use the phone.
Dear Village of Mushrooms
Each morning this week I’ve gasped
at the change. You I wake for:
daily your countless possibilities—
high and higher still, till I fear
the worst. What sludge
speculation can yield,
what winged worries.
The rain lilies near the path bend low.
A snakeskin twists
through the grill of the fire pit,
pale reminder of what? I know
where screech owls once whinnied
at dusk—not far from you—
and which trees, a little to the south,
the webworm favors. Who’s to say
when the season will peak and when
first frost. The goldenrod glows
and the salt myrtle is turning
to a sea of white.
my dear pagodas, all day I’ve threaded
forgetfulness. Is that enough?
I will look for you again tomorrow.
Susan Laughter Meyers is the author of My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass (forthcoming this fall), winner of the Cider Press Review Editor’s Prize. Her collection Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina Press) received the SC Poetry Book Prize. Her poems have also appeared in The Southern Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, jubilat, and other journals. She is a recent recipient of the Carrie McCray Nickens Fellowship from the SC Academy of Authors and the Edward Stanley Award from Prairie Schooner. Her blog is at http://susanmeyers.blogspot.com.
Q. Discuss your use of epistolary form in these poems.
A. During the summer of 2007 I began writing a series of epistolary poems with an interest in addressing abstractions, processes, and things of the natural world—rather than humans. All along, these poems have felt to me like a correspondence with life around me and its emotional tug. Eventually in 2008 I decided to teach a workshop on the form, since it readily lends itself to intimacy and, at least in my mind, to the possibility for a better understanding of the addressee. I mention the workshop, because it was important to me to have a solid footing in the epistolary form before teaching it. Well, that goal led to an obsession that’s still with me. Each letter poem creates its own emotional space. It’s one of the few instances when I’ve started with the title—and as soon as I write that greeting, I’m transported to the scene of the poem. That natural entrance into the poem appeals to me in the writing process. At the time when I first started writing these there weren’t as many epistolary poems to such odd recipients as there are now. But the rise in popularity of this approach to the form suits me just fine.
Q. Ah, mushrooms! What magnificent, alien invasions on familiar turf. What kinds/forms are your favorites to come upon in the woods?
A. Ha, I wish I knew mushroom varieties. I should read up on them. The ones I’ve seen around here are mostly various toadstool-shaped mushrooms. What has been fascinating for me during the past twelve or so years that my husband and I have lived here in a fairly rural area is the chance to come upon a whole cluster of mushrooms at the edge of our little woods—we live on three acres—and then to watch them change in appearance day by day. It’s the first time I’ve ever had that opportunity, as before I’d just come upon mushrooms on a hike, say oh how beautiful, and then never see them again. But there’s a whole miniature life’s journey of growth and decline that takes place right there in that small village in a matter of days. I think I’ve been most fascinated by the utter decay and the gnats that seem to come from nowhere—fungus gnats, I’m told.
Q. Automated calls, endlessly barking dogs – is there a third annoyance to add to a closed room in hell?
A. Oh, is there ever. Let’s see, how about this one: “Dear Electronic Alarm Clock Blinking Your Numbers after the Power Has Been Restored at 3 a.m.”?