At the Bottom of the Evening


How easy it was, at sixteen,

For the earth to tilt on its axis –

A slanted glance, a mean word

Overheard, an arm withheld.


Then the bottom of the evening

Would fall out, and if I could have,

I would have sold my mother’s love

For sex, drink, and sham affection

To keep a moon in orbit around me.

The stars all looked away.

Even I looked away from myself.

Shame was the best bedfellow,


Shame nuzzled its face into  

The soft spot between my shoulder

And chin. Now I listen to my daughter

Cry in the shower as she rises


To her own exaltation of hurt.

I did and still do wonder at the wisdom

Of the gift inside this – that we are

Made to feel and keep on breathing.


Lady Godiva Decides to Stay In Bed


We’ve all been spat on the earth,

Coughed up to clear the throat

Of an enormous machine I cannot fathom.


I’d work at it, learn which levers to pull,

Get grimy and greasy, read a manual –

If I’d get paid for my time.


But the company is broke, declared

Bankruptcy years ago, and no one

Is home at the union. There’s nowhere


To turn my Green Stamps in these days:

It was a quaint idea, anyway – as if

An umbrella might shelter me from hurt,


Or a camera, help me see the world’s colors

Right. Saving speaks of fathers long dead,

Miscellaneous drawers cluttered with


Wooden clothespins and extra keys

No one can remember what for anymore,

Pieces of string too short to bind anything.


Now we pay our bills with cash –

That many checks have buoyed and bounced.

The children yearn with open mouths.


Riding horses won’t change the tax levied

On a woman’s skin, the way the body

Is eaten by life when one chooses the usual.







These past few nights, mice make mice trails

Through the house, scattering cardboard and crumbs.

They must have multiplied, like love

In early marriage – Where there is one…


Winter’s nearly over, but I pull the spring back,

Set scented bait – fake, a yellow plastic cheese.

I place the traps in dark corners: Prayer vessels

My children cannot reach, mouse hovels


Even the God of Mice could smell.




Gargoyle, gar-girl, woman-face set in stone.

Who knows how blood flows?

Not I, sings the window.

Not I, sings the chair.


Not I, sings the mourning dove legato-ing the dithyramb

Only the dead can sing, mouths full of dirt.

Then, out of the cathedral’s stone-quiet corner:

I do, whispers the mouse –


Making not a thankful sound to the Lord.




I imagine God laying palms as white as the shiny side

Of honey on my stomach, throat, brow –

Crawling into bed with me where I’m groaning,

Curling a belly against my back, saying, There, there –


Running one finger along my lips, like food beyond

My teeth and inside my mouth, touching tongue –

That I might speak well to my children.



After Edward Weston


Embers whisper crisply now the blaze is gone,

Extolling statuary among a ruined temple’s pillars.

The enigmatic Pythia lisps a prophecy in tongues


While shrouded crows shuffle black cloud incantation

In branches, spreading and stretching night-time wings:

Excited in the silent, still cypress – but staying put.


If I dream right tonight I’ll wake later to insight,

My body and brain cracked open, a pine cone on fire,

One Pythian syllable settled like a seed in my throat.




I was alone in a body I forgot to cherish –

Though I did not know

Until you came in a glory of frustrations.

Then what I’d neglected bent a knee and I listened.


Now you are a tree spreading root in my chest,

A blue flower in my throat blooming out – a scent.

Spring pushes its green shoot up through me

As Venus settles a full-moon dress about her white waist.



Susan Whitmore is the author of four books of poetry: Your House is Floating (Liquid Light Press 2013), The Melinda Poems (Pudding House Press 2004), The Invisible Woman (Singular Speech Press 1991) and The Sacrifices (Mellen Poetry Press 1990). Her poetry has most recently appeared in 34th Parallel Magazine, Glassworks, Melusine, Poet Lore and Stone Highway. She is the current Vice President of Development of First Call, a nonprofit organization in Kansas City, Missouri. You can follow her on Twitter (@susan_whitmore)