Audio | Poems
Susan Kelly-DeWitt

Parable of the Lemons

They’ve materialized like suns, the leaves around them precisely
careless, as if they’d been placed there by a shaman to ward off 

the curses all lemon trees are susceptible to: the curse of bitterness, 
the curse of the dried-up heart. (Their radiance is humble

in the shade of the neighbor’s fence, with the sound of her spa trickling 
on the other side—where the maker of lemon trees could be 

soaking his yellow bones right now; where he might be stretching 
his mind in the direction of other citrus trees, other juicy 

inventions—the ruby grapefruit for instance; or the blood orange,
sanguine.) The spirit of the gingko—maidenhair tree—

nearby might overhear its thoughts—might decide to act 
as Paraclete and intercede from among its manifold fans—

perform a rhabdomancy to divine the lemon maker’s heart, 
to discover whether it too is cursed with bitterness, or 

if the seeds of some sweet joy have been 
patented there. 


        Gallanthus nivalis

The petals (tepals) hang
	like little white droplets,

as if bowing to the earth.
	Is the grass beneath them 

their prayer rug?
	Reading up on them

I find they are
	 medicinal, and have been

 since ancient times
	(homeopathic back then, 

FDA approved now; 
	used for nerve damage, 

dementia, memory loss)—
	that they symbolize 

sympathy. and consolation,
	innocence, purity and hope.

Do they know
	they are mortal?

Is the sky 
	their cathedral?

Landscape After Charles Burchfield

Rows of houses crisscross the horizon 
         on the other side of a cyclone 
                  fence; they shimmer, looking 

alive and haunted, as flocks of field 
         sparrows sweep the margins between 
                  earth and sky, song and silence, 

and a crow holds court on a gleaming aerial,
         solo: Poets are the antennae of the race, 
                  he announces, having memorized Pound. 

There is a pond nearby, and sometimes 
         it turns to ice, unable to bear any human 
                  weight; but it’s spring today, 

the grasses blazing coolly electric, sun 
         in a clotted corona of clouds.

“Costs of War Mount for Russia,
and for Civilians in Ukraine”

          New York Times, March 9, 2022

         Temperature slightly above freezing, 
chill winds inside. 

         My eyelids flutter and twitch
above the headlines,

         the nerves in my hands tremble
and tingle.

         Outside the flowering pears 
have dropped all their petals—

         they blanket the sidewalks and yards
like fallen snow. Today’s news 

         takes root, the cracks in the planet
icing us down, exposed.

         Yesterday periwinkles, dandelions, 
oxalis, crow—

         I prayed to them all as I walked past
the neighborhood’s showcase of wild 

         survival, the altars of beauty 
and soon-to-be 

	ruin. The redbuds are exploding 
into harmless flame.

Tightrope Sonnet

Darkness in the light,
lightness in the dark,
each star a shining leaf,
a leaf full of star fragrance.

The creatures of night
swallow it down, 
the mockingbird in hiding
gulps it in. Soon a woman

starts to write a song
then loses it. Silence showers,
erasures spark. No words, 
no praises, only daylight now, 

the frankness of mockingbird
on his favorite high wire.


I am listening to the maple tree, the finches 
in the hedge beneath and around it, that rhythmic 

flutter of yellow feathers and the gusts of maple 
breath from the jittery winged seeds. 

I’m thinking of how quickly the soil will be littered 
with its bright, fallen leaves, the amber-reds 

drying into crunchable maps, farewell letters 
from the country of autumn—the finches

long gone—the past, this moment, a ghostly 
replay in imagination’s ear.


total eclipse but 

for a while it wears a thin
white skullcap, a widow in mourning
in a Far Eastern country of endless
star-time and space—

an ancient widow mourning across the clear night sky,
banging the gong, the drum we recognize
as bloodrush, the whir and thump 
of our temporary hearts.

Driving home I see my elderly 
neighbors, the two of them out on their lawn, 
leaning into each other, skinny 
as dime-store telescopes. 

Maybe the moon is grieving for them, wailing 
and crying in advance of the day
they will exit alone

into the houses of ash and bone.


Susan Kelly-DeWitt is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow and the author of Gravitational Tug (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2020), Spider Season (Cold River Press, 2016), The Fortunate Islands (Marick Press, 2008) and several other print and online chapbooks. Her poems have been published in journals such as Poetry, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, Poetry Northwest, International Literary Quarterly, North American Review, and 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, where she is a contributing editor. She is also an exhibiting visual artist and has shown her work in Northern California galleries for thirty years. Her new book of poems, Gatherer’s Alphabet, is just out from Gunpowder Press, the first in their new series by California poets. For more information, visit her website at

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