Susan Rich

A Series of Small Scandals and Dear Telephone Booth,
March 21, 2024 Rich Susan

A Series of Small Scandals, 

                                                Later, I was invited to photograph in Hollywood.
                                                They asked me what I would like to photograph. I said, “Ugly men.”
                                                                                                Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976)


Imogen photographed her new husband:
the first male nude on Mt. Rainer—


full frontal, backside, and in daring profile—
a couple on an infamous honeymoon.


In the blue hour, Roi appeared reborn as fantasy,
his wolflike limbs disappearing—and then


appearing in the feathered grass, off the trailhead.
A body taken in the mirror of lake water, of mud.


Later reports remained uncertain as to whether
she had sold his perfect limbs,


his six-packed chest, and artful bum
for a few dollars after he’d left her.


If since the divorce, she’d framed the famous
prints above her unmade bed, letting him


float back to her. She enjoyed Roi most
under museum glass, hung inside her room.


No more hurling coconuts
at each other’s heads, no more fading away


of a marriage fickle as a Seattle spring.
Imogen continued to conjure light


and shadow out of the the marrow
of her bones—an idea without end.


At ninety, she still moved regal as a tragopan.
Friends recounted how she kept the four naked


pin-ups for herself; unfickled the fickleness
of love; preferred the silvered gaze.



Dear Telephone Booth,


Friday night: the sky opens its cornflower clouds
and two adolescents end-up inside of you


inhaling sweet rain and dog, enclosed
in a square of yellow pages, of graffitied metal.


Their teenage sweat mixes with cigarettes,
tipped in drugstore perfume.


The couple have at it—
play in this private, steam-lit world—


check the coin slot for forgotten miracles.
One lifts the other’s hips onto the metal shelf


which animal curiosity, like double agents
their thoughts stay silent.


Dear vestigial friend, dear multi-paned shelter,
witness to these (not yet) lost virgins.


You kept us lingering on the edge of terror,
our smorgasbord of sweet trouble.


A hand slipped under a cashmere shell, a bulge
pressed against a leg in this battle of yes’s


and Oh’s held artfully, humped fully clothed
where lust was as holy as two readied bodies


pressing against their boundaries
in the country of desire and steamed glass.

Susan Rich is the author of five books of poetry. Her most recent is BLUE ATLAS (Red Hen Press). Her awards include a PEN USA Award, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Times Literary Supplement Award. Rich’s poems have appeared in the Antioch Review, New England Review, O Magazine, Image Journal, and elsewhere.