Maxine Susman


Summoned, he’s hiked
to the distant camp,
OB bag strapped to his chest,
the predictable
not something he counts on.

She lies effaced in terror,
this baby, pounding for hours.

Let’s see, Madame.
Something’s wrong, he knows
before he’s sure, fingertips
reaching in feel – not scalp –
shoulder, agony to deliver.

Rigid, her legs wide, eyes fixed.
The child turned against her,
strange man casting inside.

His fingers probe the womb –
touch his only way to see –
try, and fail, try once more,
finally pry the shoulder free,
twist the body into place –

now she can push.
At five a.m. the baby comes.

The father, exuberant,
fussing at the stove. Fresh coffee,
bacon with eggs right from the hen,
all he’ll be paid, best he’s ever had.

Developing X-Rays in the Basement Darkroom, 1959

Pungent smell of vinegar, ripe fruit.
Maybe this is what it’s like to be dead,
seeing nothing.
The door has shut, we crowd in with our father,
eyes adjusting slowly to total dark,
then almost-dark lit by one red bulb.
We wait for his Dracula laugh,
deep, deliciously scary.
He has set the kitchen timer.
We don’t move –
must not touch anything, jostle his work
or be splashed by chemicals as we feel him pivot
inches away, submerging films on metal frames
into the steel vats, lifting them from solution
when time is up.
He can read the secrets of strangers.
Around us forms emerge from negatives,
shadow tissue inside the darkroom of ribs.

Rose Makes Pasta

Knotted fingers cut the string, ten pounds of flour
pour on the spotless tabletop.

She leans over the mountain of edible dust,
scoops a well deep in its center, tosses salt,
one by one cracks a dozen eggs and drops them in.

Powder sifts over her, elbows coated white,
she wipes her forehead with a knuckle and rests,

then starts to knead orange globes through her hands,
pushes out, gathers in, swirls yolks in marbled galaxy
as she has for eighty-five years, combining viscous and dry –

alchemy of gluten and albumen,
already knowing the dough becomes the bowl.

Maxine Susman’s poems have appeared in Journal of New Jersey Poets, Paterson Literary Review, US 1 Worksheets, Ekphrasis, Blueline, Asphodel, Earth’s Daughters, Comstock Review, Potomac Review, and other journals and anthologies. She belongs to the US 1 Poets Cooperative and has served as editor of US 1 Worksheets. Gogama (Sheltering Pines Press, 2006) was a finalist in the 2005 Sheltering Pines and Black River Chapbook Contests. She is currently working on a book of poems about a young Englishwoman living in France and Tunisia during WW2. Born in Manhattan and raised in Mt. Vernon, NY, she has lived for many years in Highland Park and is Associate Professor of English at Caldwell College.

Published in: on April 4, 2007 at 10:14 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What wonderful poetry! I love Maxine’s work. I feel like I am right in the poem with the people she writes about. Brava!

  2. Maxine’s poetry cuts to the core of a situation with powerful images which stay with you. In a succinct, powerful way she tells a story which moves and delights. Brilliant!

  3. Maxine,
    Tjhe blog looks great. I cant hear the podcast on my computer or dont know how to. I have enjoyed listening to you read these poems, reading them and re reading them. What a tribute tou your father. Shanti

  4. bless the wine the oil and the dough. your blog makes me greek again.
    your poetry is a gift .

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