Susan Carol Hauser

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Recent Poetry

In McKnight Award, New Poetry on February 25, 2011 at 3:13 am

Interim Report on the McKnight Fellowship: a few poems from the fellowship period!  SCH (Click on “Recent Poetry” to get full page with accurate line breaks.)

It is winter, the day before New Year’s Eve.
It has been snowing hard, again,
and I can hear on the road, through
the woods, the snow plow, its blade
rumbling over the blacktop, half
threat, half promise.

Inside, at my desk, my feet warm
on the heated floor, I watch through
the north window the snow accumulate
steadily on the ground, in spite
of the company of wind that bats it about,
lets it rest, then picks it up again.

I stayed in all day, worked on a poem, took
a nap, worked again on the poem. The snow
continued its own work, though slackened
as the temperature dropped. The wind
kept faith, building drifts in the yard
and down the driveway.

When it was dark, I turned on the outside lights,
watched the snow rise and settle, listened
to the wind, then gave in to the day-long impulse:
gathered myself into my outside gear and set out
for the mailbox.

The driveway bends through a maple grove, then
opens to a neighbor’s field and then to the wide
berm of the county road. No traffic either way.
I mind the strips of ice laid down in the tire paths
and cross to the box, place the mail in the satchel
I carry. I leave in the box one envelope to go out,
lift the little red flag into its salute position, check
again the silent road for cars and cross back
to my driveway.

There I stop, realize I have been holding my breath.
I let it go, feel it rising and falling, then tend to that larger
breathing of the wind, one long whistle that began
in the west and will exhale all the way across
the continent.

When I stepped out of the house into the yard, I
wondered how well I would be able to see after
the drive curved away from the house. I am experienced
at this kind of walking, into the night, away from light:
I know if I am patient, my eyes will adjust, except
for looking down: snow on snow does not allow visual
discrimination. I land each foot with clear intent, accept
the terrain as it rises and falls from drift to driftless,
hips and knees making the accommodation. For guidance
I use the line of trees that leads me inevitably to the road,
where I note the light at a distant neighbor’s that flickers
like a candle through the trees.

I am not foolish: I called my son before I left and
will call when I return; I have my cell phone in
my pocket. I think of Jenny who lived here long
before I did, her story about Roland riding horseback
twenty miles into town, about the blizzard that rolled in
while he was gone, its only warning a graying sky
and escalating flurries. It was lambing season.
She stayed in the barn wondering if he had taken shelter
or was trying to get home. For three days she tended
the sheep and her fear. When the sky blew clear
and the cold set in, that deep, relentless, blue-skied cold,
she stayed still with the lambs.

Late that afternoon, he rode in, as simple as that.
Not there. There. Here, putting up the horse, looking
at the lambs, stomping the snow off his boots in
the kitchen entry. Jenny heated soup, made coffee.

I closed my eyes as I stood at the end of the driveway,
the wind surrounding me. No cars went by, no pickups,
no logging trucks late home from the road. I was warm
except for my cheeks, heat streaming away from them,
carried off by the sub-zero wind. Still I stood there, eyes
closed, listening. I began to lose my balance, adjusted
my stance, feet farther apart, arms out slightly from
my sides, head lifted back as though to hear better
a higher sound streaming down from the treetops.

Back in the house, I report that I am in, then look
at the mail. Nothing worth any kind of risk, but outside,
the wind continues its siren call, half threat, half promise,
and snow blazes through the beam of the porch light
that, to a distant eye, flickers like the flame of a candle.



In the pew in front of me, a man leans slightly
toward his wife, gently removes a bit of lint
from the shoulder of her sweater. She seems
to not notice but I’m betting that she does,
that she feels the slight pressure of his thumb
and forefinger against the blue-gray fabric,
a kiss in passing, a touch of gratitude
for her being here, next to him at this place,
saying goodbye to their friend of forty years,
his wife sitting on the other side of the aisle
next to the children, the grandchildren, she
smiling as she can at the sweet words pouring out—
how we all loved this man—a river of love
flowing away from her, too fast, too far,
singular, relentless.


for Bill Borden

It was evening when I heard
the snow geese coming,
late migrators following the first snow
of the incipient winter.

I heard them even through the walls
of the house, their calling, crying, yelping,
even barking, the sound coming toward me
the way a storm travels, relentless in its mission.

I went outside and faced north, hoping to see them,
their almighty wings white against the evening sky.
They turned, though, before they got to me. I heard
them go down in a distant field
their voices dwindling, then silent.

They are in for the night. I also abandon the dark sky,
step back inside. Out of reach. Out of sight.

More to come!