Two poems from Susan Castillo Street


I went to college in some style
to the sort of place where young ladies
from good families could board their horse,
if they so wished.
In the second year, however,
Dad speculated on wheat futures.
Circumstances changed.

I graded papers, babysat for profs,
waited tables in the dining hall, heard
lobotomized debutantes talk of boys
with bank accounts, while looking straight through me.
This does encourage one
to develop a jaundiced view
of sisterhood.

On the last day of term I walked in
with a tray stacked 12-plate high
on my left shoulder.
Olympic discus thrower,
I demurely hurled the tray
in perfect arc, shattering titters, twitters.
Stunned silence followed.

Amid the fragments,
holding up both sides of skirts
I did a perfect three-point curtsey
as Southern ladies learn to do
from infancy, and topped it off with
patronizing windshield wiper wave,
queenly razor smile.


What Every Mother Knows

Most shadows are grape-coloured.
They have clear contours, pooling,
flowing violet in our wake,
made of just one piece.
Not mine. She’s scythed in two.

Her left side holds the children close.
She tends the home fires, helps with homework,
bakes cakes, thinks of what she’s missing:
bright lights, late nights, promotions,
sparkling conversations.

Her right half is strong, high-powerered.
She chairs meetings, sits on boards, conquers worlds,
thinks of her children’s little triumphs,
their first words, steps taken
when she wasn’t there.

Both frayed shadow halves have edges
sutured with a bloodstained needle,
limned with hues of dark grey longing
serrated by regret.
Susan Castillo Street is Harriet Beecher Stowe Professor Emerita, King’s College, University of London. She has published three collections of poems, The Candlewoman’s Trade (Diehard Press, 2003), Abiding Chemistry, (Aldrich Press, 2015), and Constellations (Three Drops Press, 2016), as well as several scholarly monographs and edited anthologies. Her work has appeared in Southern Quarterly, Prole, The High Window, Ink Sweat & Tears, Messages in a Bottle, The Missing Slate, Clear Poetry, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Foliate Oak, The Yellow Chair Review, and other journals and anthologies.

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