Susan Rich

March 26, 2017 Rich Susan


            for Leonora Carrington, 1917-2011


A long armed monkey lurks by the far
edge of the table, a kind of night watchman
half-hidden behind lace tablecloths,

his tail an upside down question mark.

Naked – of course – and disinclined
to join the party.
I think of your life this way—observer of

other realms— hold-up like a secret agent—
with the oddest of binoculars—
your gaze that of professor, of undertaker.

How you hated your coming out party—
you said it was like your father selling a product—

and not one he believed in.
How the teachers complained—often—
Leonora does not collaborate well.

Wild animal, the headmistress hissed

as you left her wallpapered rooms
for the next.

You could recall with distaste
weekends of flowing cocktails, offered
by strangers with odd shaped heads—

the food laid out as some anemic image

of the afterlife. You’d disappeared by then—
self-appointed linguist at the local zoo
each day meetings with lesula monkeys, African hyenas—

to learn their languages, to paint their gorgeous minds.




for Leonora Carrington, 1917-2011


Because not every woman can wear a velvet dress
with a cape of seabirds flying
from her chest towards a hieroglyphic sky,

you stood out—your fowl language of hyena,
of humpback whale, your omelets
famous for the buttery flavor of red hair.

And in your sketches of a ghost minotaur
and griffin; you conjured an unknown bestiary—
and became yourself.

Nowadays we visit in Seattle—
mornings on the way to work, a shimmer
of angel cake rises from this surreal

sky and you fill my pockets with rare coins
in the shapes of pushpins and limpet shells.
I am as mysterious to myself as I am to others, you tell me.

And in the folded hands of your giantess,
you paint a giant egg—kitchen essential
of beginnings and endings—clairvoyant orb.

Your light beams the night I guide my ninety-year-old friend
to the opera. How she stopped her three-legged cane
to gaze like a scribe into the face of some swaddled infant.

I remember how time unhooked.
From one end to the other, Molly said
to the newborn and it was clear that the child

understood—that the two of them
were clear-eyed edges of the same giant thread—
their own alchemical painting.

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.