Susan Azar Porterfield – The House

Porterfield LE P&W July 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing July 2023

The House, poems by Susan Azar Porterfield.

The House Teaches Her about Death

After he died, he came to call,
waiting at the basement door,

though try as she might,
she couldn’t reach it to let him in

what with the party, people cocktailing,
and when she looked again,

he was gone. Breathless,

she leapt upstairs,
yanked open the door, and yes, he was there,

the line of his back, his walk.
She could see him still,

waiting to cross at a light, then crossing,
stopping to adjust the strap of his pack.

I can reach him, she thought, running now.
I can make it just in time.

The House Teaches Her about Love

They seemed a stream of need flowing by her legs,
five or six of them, seven, she wasn’t sure, children,

young, vague, but the house would help her
keep them alive. It was large and light–

here, we’re safe, she sighed,

meaning absence, mainly, from vigilance,
the mind twisting cat-eared to clicks and creaks,

snap-deciding now again now
about which sounds not to fear.

She ran to secure each window and door,
all locked, all tight.
Except that one.

Fumbling with the latch
she saw outside a darkness outlined in dark–

and now she had to get them out out, quick,
away from the house that, dammit, wasn’t hers anyway

just shelter she’d found by chance, and those kids
weren’t hers either, you know.

The House Becomes Strange

Waking as usual, she began to doubt her hands
were her hands, and certainly

these arms, which refused to reach for her glasses
on the stand where she’d left them,

did not belong to her.
To stretch and grasp took oh, so long. It annoyed her,

the slow plow of body through tides of air,
and now, standing at last,

she found that silly bathroom
was not where
it should be.

The whole structure had shaken loose . . .
lightness became her, and from its own knock,

her heart, huddled in its little lived-space,
shied away.

The House vs. Getting Ready for Work

Lifting, I take her out, then coffee,
the Times, teeth, and doing the face, anxious
not to hurry the creation

who stands now, mirrored.
First one leg slipped into and then here
is the other, adjusting, adjusting,

making room in the head,
pushing something or someone aside.
And always there is sadness at this cleaving,

a kind of floating in suspense
for the return. Crazy fear
that the time will never come.

Oh, I’ll be adrift forever,

the orphan cries,
never to shed these spike heels, dig
for bulbs to burst like falling stars

in startling spring
or feel that nonchalance, unrepentant
as a robe.

Never witness in my kitchen
the ruby of these apples, gracious,
in their lapis-colored bowl.

© Susan Azar Porterfield

Susan Azar Porterfield’s three books of poetry include In the Garden of Our Spines, Kibbe (Mayapple Press) and Dirt, Root, Silk, which won the Cider Press Review Editor’s Prize.  Her poems have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, The Georgia Review, Barrow Street, EcoTheo, Painted Bride, Mid-American Review, North American Review, Crab Orchard Review, Nimrod, Rhino, Puerto del Sol, Poetry Ireland Review, Slipstream, Room, Ambit, Magma.  She’s the editor of Zen, Poetry, the Art of Lucien Stryk (Ohio UP) and has written on poetical subjects for Poets & Writers, The Writer’s Chronicle, Translation Review, The Midwest Journal of the Modern Language Association. She’s the recipient of an Illinois Arts Counsel Award for Poetry.

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