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About this poet

Susan Rich is the author of Cloud Pharmacy (White Pine Press, 2014). She teaches at Highline College and lives in Seattle, Washington.

The Photograph Suggests a Hidden Life

Past Storrow Drive, over the Mystic
River Bridge, my father lived in Chelsea—

home to Katz’s two-step bagel, to perpetually
broken sidewalks. A minor chord

in an immigrant tale—feral curls,
thirdhand coat—my dad looks

into the me he cannot imagine.
His eyes and hips glitter as he stands

against the glass of the family’s corner shop.
After school, working wordlessly beside his father—

leased, not owned—he would repeat—
a livelihood soon-to-fail from unpaid credit

for kosher spam and a carton of eggs. My father gazes
towards me like a cinema darling in a Jewish saga

of fire escapes, flashy dance numbers, suicides.
He becomes a mechanical engineer

who will not be called when his mother dies,
who will never dial his sister’s number again.

My father will build his life from a mountain of questions
without an answer key, a footnote

with an alphabet all his own: part Russian,
part Yiddish, part loss. In the city

that abuts Boston—infamous for bankruptcy,
for the erasures of old countries—his heart tried.

Tonight, I search the photograph
to detect again his history—the plagues

of bewilderment—the tracks that follow
me through the unseen branches

of our family tree; faded patterns of light
and dark, ascending.

Copyright © 2018 Susan Rich. “The Photograph Suggests a Hidden Life” originally appeared in The Plume Anthology of Poetry 6. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2018 Susan Rich. “The Photograph Suggests a Hidden Life” originally appeared in The Plume Anthology of Poetry 6. Used with permission of the author.

Susan Rich

Susan Rich

Susan Rich is the author of Cloud Pharmacy (White Pine Press, 2014).

by this poet

poem

Outside my window it’s never the same—
some mornings jasmine slaps the house, some mornings sorrow.

There is a word I overheard today, meaning lost
not on a career path or across a floating bridge:

Boketto—to stare out windows without purpose.
Don’t laugh; it’s been too long since we

2
poem

Today, the sky saved my life
caught between smoked rum and cornflower.
Today, there is a color I can’t name cruising past

the backdoor – it is the idea of color.
Cloudscapes evaporate like love songs
across lost islands, each a small bit coin of thought.

Today, I am alive and this is

poem
 
after W. S. Merwin
 
 
Let’s just listen—  
 
before the spent words and the hidden nests
of sentences begin, before the musical count
 
of vowels and consonants, the ink