POETRY: Susan Austin–The Sweet and the Dark

Susan Austin—The Sweet and the Dark

These hot June mornings I walk in the shade of aspen, through
the willing grass.

I wonder if I might meet the grizzly sow talked about in town,
her three bright cubs sniffing the air like their mother.

It wouldn’t be a pleasant end. Messy,

buried in a scratch of earth to ripen, the dead
and living forest for a blanket.

You have to know loneliness deep within your bones,
the willing marrow.

What does one miss and know not to miss at all?

Once I saw a string of mucous stretch nose to foot
on a drunk man mumbling in the gutter. I did not want to dirty my new green dress.
He smelled like soured milk until he turned

to say, I miss you.

I helped two bikers haul him up a flight of narrow stairs
to the place where he lived two blocks from the bar—

a stained mattress on bare coiled springs, a sink ringed with rust, a yellowed
toilet bowl, so everything he knew for certain about himself was right out in the open.

Tonight Venus, Jupiter and Regulus will line up straight as the crow flies in the western sky.

The sweet and dark.

One of the bikers, a woman dressed head to toe in silver studded leather,
she helped rinse the skirt of my dress in the sink.

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