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Light Made From Nothing

Susan Elbe

“This homely life/with its plain face/and clumsy limbs welcomed me…./Who could not want this world?” In “Light Made from Nothing,” Susan Elbe explores the homely clumsiness of learning how to live and love, the aching distinctions that must be made along the way, and the heart’s tenacity. Although these lessons exact losses more often than not, the speaker embraces the “new knowledge/opened in me” through “the hard slog/and radiance of this journey.” Elbe’s images are well-drawn and inventive. Her use of language is sophisticated, clear, even delightfully playful at times. She envisions a “straight-backed, articulate,” white-winged angel as a guiding inner force but finds instead a persistent interior companion who is both more disquieting and more real. “…this one–dark, rough/as a dockhand–waits for me,…/He’s always there in me like all-night traffic./Turning slowly in my head,…/He wants me to go all the way.” And while it’s hard to love “a life that’s like the ragged, feral cat/mewling at the door,/insinuating with its cheek and hunger,” on the other hand, “Isn’t tart/as good as sugar on the tongue?” Through “hard-got wisdom” and cool perseverance, these poems undertake “The Difficult Simplicity of Certain Contemplations” (as one poem is titled) and emerge committed. ‘This bully world still has the strength/to break your heart/with all its street-smarts and its swagger,/its Spanish love songs/and its one and only mango moon.'” “I’ll tell you what love of this life is…./It’s thinking, this could almost be enough.”

Susan Elbe’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in CALYX, A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, The North American Review, Laurel Review, Ascent, Permafrost, Southern Poetry Review, Passages North, Rattle, and Puerto del Sol,as well as in the anthology A Fierce Brightness: Twenty-five Years of Women’s Poetry (CALYX Books, November 2002). In 2002, she won the inaugural Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize sponsored by CALYX Journal and received a Rowland Foundation Fellowship residency to the Vermont Studio Center. Susan has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Wisconsin and works as a Web Content Analyst in Madison, Wisconsin.

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Rhythms of Morning

I am going to the sea, the teal-green latino sea,
the warm-as-bathwater sea,
the sea that sings torrid Cuban love songs,
the sea that touches all shores.

I wait for my taxi to the airport, dark
houses silent as blue water, steeped
in fathoms-deep sleep. Across the street,
one light burns. One crow hacks the quiet

with its rough saw. Here, morning is a fugue,
a woman with her nameless yearnings,
a sullen man with surly and inchoate needs
clinking in his pocket like dull coins.

A single car’s headlights sweep over me,
then gone. Light uncurls, owly as the derelict
who rises from his steam vent stiff and cold.
Here, morning slinks and shuffles.

But I am going to the sea, the salty margarita
sea, the equatorial hip and thigh sea, the blowzy
slip-around-me sea where morning will jump
and shimmy and shamelessly rumba with me.