by Susan Kelly-DeWitt

Cover Image - Homage - Susan Kelly-DeWitt

Homage, Susan Kelly-DeWitt, Acryllic on Canvas

The New Bed | Replay | H is for Heron | Cemetery Song | Soliloquy

The New Bed

A corpulent robin, possibly pregnant (no—
it’s chest is too neon, it’s male) on the birdbath’s
rim, testing himself against a cement cousin, frozen—
in-motion dove, who refuses to drink.

I’ve slept until 9:30 on the new bed (delivered
and assembled yesterday by two stout drivers—
our “fourth life bed,” a friend says)—waking impossibly late
though early enough to discover my feathered comrade again
outside the greenhouse window, awash in ferns and white
abutilon bells the sun bombards through thinning ozone.

A phone rings next door. I hear my neighbor’s heavy
footsteps thud across his deck, chasing the fourth ring,
snapping it upon the fifth. His swallowed syllables
elude like carp.

My robin friend splashes his back and portly chest—
dunks his scruffy head under-under-under: Sunlight
breaking over the cool splatter of water molecules
tumbling through ruffled feathers; the prismatic scatter
of violet and pink wildflowers screen-printed across
the new bed’s sheets. Without conscious effort we—plant
and flesh, leaf and wing—merge in the cosmic plasma—
thought and no-thought, words and no-words. Lao-Tzu
in my head: Heaven’s net casts wide. Though
its meshes are coarse, nothing slips through.

I feel luck on my shoulder this morning.
I feel the Great Web of Being brush my cheek
and I try to catch one strand.


My mother in the garden

on the brick
edge of the fountain

       She doesn’t know
the rivers of blood inside her

will soon overflow

that the brain dam will break

the sea levels rise

             that hemorrhage will crash
through the gurney’s spillways
the banks of the ER

Her skull is still
             a whole note

her ribcage
       a musical staff

             She’s joyous
in this moment, beside the jasmine’s
sleeping eyes

             with the frost-grass
all around her, the world
wrapped in parchment

H is for Heron

after a tile painting by Frankie Hansbearry

Cover Image - Black-Crowned Night Heron - Frankie Hansbearry

             Black-Crowned Night Heron, blue moon like an eye
looking out at us from blue sky. Life raft moon—

             or the sun in blue eclipse? Target moon? Heron won’t ask,
won't answer why an open window of sea hangs beside him—

             chalkboard sea, opalescent shell (or is it a sail?) shining;
two more eyes, or beads, or blue inner tubes adrift on blue

             waves scratched in. Two twigs, four leaves, ghost-twigs,
ghost-leaves. Two blue streaks, electric, like blue thoughts:

             A road, an undulant path marked in blue, making a blue
music like Picasso’s Blue Guitar—or two snipped strands (Clotho’s

             threads?) afloat in the fleeting world; two lifelines
leading to Heron, its alert hypnotic hunter’s eye, its look of mild

             consternation: What shall I do now? Where shall I go
next? How shall I fish the deep waters called Home?

Cemetery Song

                    Who is to say
they aren’t tucked into the ground
to sweeten it, like lavender

       How can we be sure
       they aren’t sublimely gathered

into a deathless bouquet—
swaying in a vessel

of starshine;
       ghostly and fresh
       in their roomy arrangements?

                    Tell me I am not
planted here alone, among the silent
stones, chiseled glyphs—



This morning the steady groan of a leaf blower down the street
may as well be the hell-bent moan of hard summer wind grinding
things down, clearing the dead layers and years of blossoming.

They tried to force her smile and dressed her in fake
yellow. I had watched the smile unravel; it took ten years.
(What man has torn asunder let no mortician put together.)

Even among those who practice for death, those who rehearse
over and over, who among those will be ready when the last
leftover star tears itself loose from under a cooled eyelid?


Deborah says depression but I don’t believe it, the trees don’t either,
nor do the flowers I bought at Farmer’s Market yesterday: butterfly
bush, lavender, sweet william, wild goldfields, seafoam statice.

Some mornings are still crammed with green light and existential
fervor: filling the pond, feeling the trickle of water from the hose,
knowing the tomatoes are fattening, the tart nasturtiums thriving.

There is a Matisse inside us, bedridden, doomed but snipping the mind’s
theater, putting it all together, surrounded by a sea of scalloped leaves,
nudes, loves made of colored paper, the exact bright shade we wanted.


My friend sends me a magic toad for good cheer, good luck; the kabuki
Gama rises like storm behind a samurai’s head. Its lips are sealed, its eyes
glitter like sky-flash. (In the old days, would we have swallowed the opium?)

The shoji screen that filters the light with its washi paper sheen
makes me feel I’m breathing inside some ancient temple, say Phoenix
Hall in Byodo-in. Outside, the day moon’s toothless grin.


I continue to study the primitive and enlightened architecture of the trees—
dogwood today—the berries as they suck the light with their puckered nipples.
I need a new lexicon. My Descriptionary is no help. Start here, my pencil advises.

Susan Kelly-DeWitt is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow and the author of Spider Season (Cold River Press, 2016), The Fortunate Islands (Marick Press, 2008) and nine previous small press and online collections. Her poems have been published in journals such as Poetry, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, Poetry Northwest, International Literary Quarterly, North American Review, Terrain, among others, and in many anthologies at home and abroad. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and the Northern California Book Reviewers Association, and her reviews have appeared in Library Journal, Small Press Review, The Sacramento Bee, and Poetry Flash. She is also an exhibiting visual artist and has shown her work in Northern California galleries for thirty years. She recently completed two new poetry collections which are making the rounds. For more information, please visit her website at

Other Susan Kelly-DeWitt Mudlarks:
Tectonics, Mudlark Poster No. 141 (2017)
Season of Change, Mudlark Poster No. 141 (2012)
The Limbo Suite, Mudlark Chap No. 38 (2009)
Cassiopeia Above the Banyon Tree, Mudlark Chap No. 33 (2007)

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