A Sampling of Published Poems and Essays
Some of my work for adults--I write both prose and poetry--has been published in The Christian Science Monitor, Skirt!, Windfall, Underwired, The Binnacle, Friends Journal, Tidal Echoes, The Centrifugal Eye, the Alaska State Arts Council Poetry Month calendar and Cirque.
A few pieces appear below.
Copyright for the following previously published works, Susi Gregg Fowler
IDENTITY CRISIS (Published in The Christian Science Monitor 2006)
We’re here, old Pluto and I,
just like we’ve always been,
but we’re being reinvented
from without, if not within.
Can a rose by any other name
still be a rose, my friend?
Can a planet demoted down to “dwarf”
still stay up there and spin?
And with my children off and grown
might I find myself again?
It’s transition time, dear Pluto,
and we of stardust, solids, gas,
are left spinning in our orbits,
wondering how things changed so fast.
EARLY MORNING HUNT: JUNEAU, 1962 (Published in Windfall 2011)
Sitting in mud slick with tidewater,
the air sharp with smells of salt and sea,
we watched our breath spiral into the waking light
while we waited for flashes of color to pierce the grey morning:
mallards, bluebills, green-winged teal.
We swallowed that morning air in gulps,
like whales surfacing for breath.
Those hours, stolen from the daily lives
others thought defined us,
nourished us as surely as air sustains whales
though the world defines them by water.
Our dog patrolled the wetlands as we,
three generations in a stretch of mud,
braved bitter wind and stinging rain.
We gripped our shotguns in freezing hands,
ourselves gripped by the need to belong
to this morning and to each other.
Perhaps time is the philosopher’s stone
by which mud flats are transmuted
into sacred ground. Or is it true, as I almost remember,
that I felt the breath of the Eternal
call some part of me into being there,
before those witnesses?
I hunt no longer, though my shotgun
still hangs on the basement wall.
Grandpa, the dog, and even those wetlands
live only in memory.
But still I define myself by the hours we spent
breathing in that spiced air, baptized by those cold rains.
- for my father
LIKE AN AMARYLLIS (Published in Cirque, 2012)
My daughter grew that way,
stem-like toward the sky.
Because she seemed no wider
as she grew up and up,
a slender stalk,
it took the rising line
of skirts and trousers
to wake me to the change.
Then I saw
that what I’d thought
at the edge of opening.
I held my breath
so hard it hurt.
Can change occur
she hinted at something
she blazed into color,
Glorious. - for Angie
A KINDER, GENTLER JANUARY (Published in Underwired Magazine Jan. 2012)
January: looking forward, looking back. That’s the legacy, the not-so-subliminal instruction, the Romans gave us for this first month of the year. Named for Janus, the two-faced Roman god of doors, gateways, and transitions, January invites a certain level of reflection on the past and planning for the future. Hence , New Year’s Resolutions. Thanks a lot, Romans. The thought of resolutions makes my shoulders slump and my spirits droop. Self-judgment may be the cruelest criticism out there, and without even stopping to think back, I figure that I probably didn’t accomplish what I had hoped to in the year now slipping away. Maybe I’ll do better next year? January is often dismal – cold or wet enough to discourage taking part in even my favorite winter activities – a month well suited to introspection indoors. So, once the holiday season is over, I give some thought to New Year’s Resolutions. My writing partner and I meet and discuss last year’s hopes, dreams, successes and failures, making new resolves for the future. My husband and I do the same, ours usually revolving around household projects and repairs, dreams of travel, budgeting. And I often write a few personal resolutions myself – being a better correspondent, exercising more, getting organized. The notion of making New Year’s Resolutions is ubiquitous. Cartoon strip characters do it. So do kids in school. And “Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions?” is a frequent conversational gambit among friends and acquaintances this first month of the year. While some people may insist they will NOT be making resolutions, thank you very much, making resolutions and its implicit “self-improvement” message is still in the air. I wonder how many of us overlook Janus’ other face, though -- the one looking back at the year just past. Reflecting on the year itself – looking at where I’ve come from – has not been an intentional part of my January pattern. From what I hear from other people, it’s not part of theirs either. To the extent that we look back at all, it’s often in the context of how well we succeeded at the previous year’s resolutions. We look back in criticism, not reflection. It occurs to me that we’re missing out on something vital, something life-affirming, by not mindfully looking back at our year just past. “Right. Add it to the list,” you say. Trust me, this was my first thought, too: If I look back, all I’ll see is a blur. For Pete’s sake, even last week is a blur, and I can’t remember yesterday all that well. Reflect on last year? Maybe if I kept a regular journal, looking back would be easier, but I don’t. I’m too busy. Something else to feel bad about. Like I said, those were my first thoughts. My second? Why not check the calendar? Most of us busy people keep some sort of calendar – especially if our lives are, in part or whole, filled with caretaking responsibilities, work, appointments for ourselves or loved ones. Could that help? I take down my kitchen calendar and start reading. Memories flood in – immediately. Just in January, I see that my husband and I did a school visit on writing and illustrating at my niece’s classroom. I’d forgotten that. I take a moment to savor the memory. What a brilliant teacher she is. What an amazing group of fifth graders, and how tickled we were by their thank you notes. And I took the ferry to Skagway, a small town near my home, to spend time with a close friend. Oh, yes. That was a memorable trip – now that I remember it, that is. The wind howled, the waves were so high they came crashing over the bow of the ship, and the windows completely iced over. I shiver, remembering the adventure. Later that month I met with a group of grandmas at the public library to discuss favorite children’s books. What fun that was. Oh – and I see that’s the month my grandson started basketball Wow. Just looking at that one page of my calendar brought back some of what the year held, and it didn’t require more than a few moments. Paging through the calendar at my scribbled notes (Resolution for next year: write on the calendar more legibly!), I see that in my own way, I do have a record of the past year, a tool to help me look back, to reflect, to smile, to shed some tears. It’s all here: memorial services, times to deliver food to friends in need – oh yes, that’s when he came back from radiation, that’s when her baby was born. Here’s the visit from my cousin, here for the state library conference – I remember we had a blizzard, and how much my granddaughter loved meeting Cousin Beth. Some entries are prosaic. “Susi, Dentist, 10:00.” But others prove triggers for memory: Visits from friends from Boston, cousins from Seattle, family from Oklahoma; visiting my daughter and her sweetheart in New York; the ten glorious days in June when everyone else in the family was out of town and I could write without distraction. And there are the dates of plays, parties, birthdays. You get the idea. Reading through the calendar reminds me that the year was much more than just a blur. It was life filled with living. Basketball and soccer games, the start of school, book signings and art shows, my women’s group, getting my dad’s new dog, my husband’s eye surgery. Whew. Looking back at the calendar reminds me that I don’t just waste my time. I use my time – I use it with family and friends, celebrations and mourning, support and fun. It reminds me to love my life and to honor the year that has gone by. So, after taking down the tree (an Epiphany tradition in our house), cleaning out the holiday leftovers, writing the cards I probably won’t get around to in December while decorating, caroling, entertaining, preparing for my daughter’s visit, and babysitting my grandchildren, I plan to cozy up on the couch, hot tea at hand, and go carefully through the calendar of the year just past. Maybe I’ll even record somewhere a few highlights of each month. And then – and only then – will I let Janus and myself turn our faces toward the new year. Thanks to this newly discovered tool, my old familiar kitchen calendar, I think I’ll be able to successfully shrug off the “all I do is spin my wheels” self-talk and will instead approach the resolution-making, goal setting, forward-looking part of January’s invitation in a positive state of mind. With this new view, maybe I’ll feel kinder toward myself, more appreciative of the ways I spend my time, and grateful for the richness of my life. Maybe this January it will be enough to set an intention to just keep on keeping on, acknowledging that while there’s certainly room for improvement, there’s a whole lot of life going on in this old house and it deserves celebration. I want to remember that. Now, that’s a resolution!
SEE SPOT ROT (Published in Tidal Echoes 2008)
Some days are better than others. The day the lizard died was not one of the good ones. I kept poking Spot, hoping to prod him back to life. We’d had enough death around our house lately. In one week, we buried one grandmother, my other grandmother died, and we received word that Momma’s cancer had metastasized.. A dead lizard seemed an unnecessary complication. Besides, it was raining – a cold October rain. I wasn’t up to a soggy ceremony honoring Spot’s brief life and demise. Left to my own devices, he would have spent eternity at the landfill. But Spot was my younger daughters pet, and she was grief struck. “Tomorrow we’ll bury the lizard, honey,” I said. But tomorrow came — as did more rain — and my energy spiraled downward. My daughter, a tender seven-year old navigating her own grief, somehow recognized my torpor as an snag in the mourning process and allowed increasing intervals to pass between requests for the burial service. Each day I spoke with my mother. Each day I mourned her increasing frailty and my grandmothers’ deaths. And the lizard got stiff, there in the terrarium in our entryway. With a kind of fascinated inertia, I watched Spot’s tiny corpse change daily. In time, he dried out. I moved him — still in the terrarium — to the basement. There I discovered that the crickets we raised to feed Spot had died, forgotten. The basement was turning into a morgue. Pretty grim business. But burying the lizard was still a task for tomorrow. Some weeks went by and I — never a quick study — finally noticed that I was depressed. The symbol of my depression was the dead, unburied, lizard keeping vigil in the basement. As if managing routine chores wasn’t onerous enough, facing Spot became yet another impediment to keeping up with the laundry. Whenever the towel and underwear shortage required a journey to the basement, Spot’s unblinking eye accused me as I loaded the washer, and I felt his silent criticism as I scurried guiltily back upstairs. Meanwhile, the ground began to freeze. Torn between horror and humor, I confided to a friend that my basement contained secrets untold and unburied. We agreed that this did not signify robust mental health. Confession offered relief, but it wasn't enough to nudge me toward coping with life or, for that matter, with death. Mom came back from her final and unsuccessful treatment, my daughter quit planning the lizard’s funeral service, the first snow came, and Spot turned brown. My friend called from time to time. “Buried the lizard yet?” she’d ask. It wasn’t Spot’s final resting place that concerned her; we both knew that. Days turned to nights, and nights to days, and still Spot waited, unsung and, worse, unburied. And then – how does this happen? – one day I felt the stirring of initiative. Tiny impulses of energy leapt from cell to cell, and I began progressing from small task to larger task. One fine morning I woke up knowing the time had come. With a burst of vigor, I transferred Spot to a small cardboard box, grabbed a trowel, and headed for the front yard. There, under the lilac, my daughter and I placed her once beloved lizard. The hole wasn’t too deep; after all, the ground was frozen pretty hard by this time. The ceremony was brief. Spot had been dead long enough that he was a bit of yesterday’s news. But despite cloudy skies, the sun rose in my heart. I called my friend. “I did it,” I said with as much relief and pride as if I’d broken a world record or tunneled out of prison. “I buried the lizard.” I heard her sigh of relief. “May he stay buried,” she intoned. I could only reply, “Amen.”