Susan Rich |
Xhosa women in clothes too light
for the weather have brought wild flowers
and sit sloped along the Claremont road.
I see her through rolled windows,
watch her watch me to decide if I’ll pay.
It’s South Africa, after all, after apartheid;
but we’re still idling here, my car to her curb,
my automatic locks to her inadequate wage.
Susan Rich |
Each night he stands before
the kitchen island, begins again
from scratch: chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg,
he beats, he folds;
keeps faith in what happens
when you combine known quantities,
bake twelve minutes at a certain heat.
The other rabbis, the scholars,
teenagers idling by the beach,
they receive his offerings,
in the early hours, share his grief.
It’s enough now, they say.
Each day more baked goods to friends,
and friends of friends, even
the neighborhood cops.
He can’t stop,
holds on to the rhythmic opening
and closing of the oven,
the timer’s expectant ring.
I was just baking, he says if
someone comes by.
Again and again,
evenings winter into spring,
he creates the most fragile
of confections: madelines
and pinwheels, pomegranate crisps
and blue florentines;
each crumb to reincarnate
a woman – a savoring
of what the living once could bring.
Susan Rich |
Republic of Niger
Nomads are said to know their way by an exact spot in the sky,
the touch of sand to their fingers, granules on the tongue.
But sometimes a system breaks down.
I witness a shift of light,
study the irregular shadings of dunes.
Why am I traveling
this road to Zinder, where really there is no road? No service station
at this check point, just one commercant hawking Fanta
in gangrene hues.
C'est formidable! he gestures --- staring ahead
over a pyramid of foreign orange juice.
In the desert life is distilled to an angle of wind, camel droppings,
How long has this man been here, how long
can I stay contemplating a route home?
It's so easy to get lost and disappear, die of thirst and longing
as the Sultan's three wives did last year.
Found in their Mercedes,
the chauffeur at the wheel, how did they fail to return home
to Ágadez, retrace a landscape they'd always believed?
No cross-streets, no broken yellow lines; I feel relief at the abandonment
of my own geography.
I know there's no surveyor but want to imagine
the aerial map that will send me above flame trees, snaking
through knots of basalt.
I'll mark the exact site for a lean-to
where the wind and dust travel easily along my skin,
and I'm no longer satiated by the scent of gasoline.
I'll arrive there
out of balance, untaught; ready for something called home.