Susan Azar Porterfield – House Poems

P Susan Porterfield LE P&W Vol 1 2019

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Poems by Azar Porterfield

Susan Azar Porterfield is the author of three books of poetry—In the Garden of Our Spines, Kibbe (Mayapple Press) and Dirt, Root, Silk, which won the Cider Press Review Editor’s Prize. Her work has appeared in The Georgia Review (finalist, Loraine Williams poetry prize), Barrow Street, Mid-American Review, North American Review, Crab Orchard Review, Nimrod, Rhino, Puerto del Sol, Poetry Ireland Review, and elsewhere.  She is 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, and Translation Review.

House Poems


The Dreamed-House Dreams Itself

Again the house returns her
to an empty room,

windows, floor to ceiling,
and doors that release

to garden birdsong, bloom—

she vows, again forgets,

circling daily through her
rooms enough already,

honey and tea to pass.
Why, then, deep in the house’s spine,

wides this grass-green space?


The House Teaches Her about Death

For Lucien Stryk

After he died, he came calling,
waiting at the basement door,

but she couldn’t reach it,
what with the party, people cocktailing,

and when she looked again,

he was gone. Breathless,

she scrambled up the stairs to see–
and yes, there, there he was,

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

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

Tearing through the door, she thought,
I can make it just in time. I can.


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

about which sounds not to fear,
the mind twisting cat-eared to clicks and creaks,

snap-deciding now again now.

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

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

and now she had to get them out out, quick,
out of 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 the 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.

© Susan Azar Porterfield