a writer's pages

Suzanne Baldwin Leitner
Uncle Ic’rus

in 19 and 26, was a God-fearin' heavy drinker.
He'd start the day with prayer and a full bottle.
‘bout time the bottle was half-clear
Ic’rus was mighty cloudy. But the Lord was never far
from his mind so he'd preach. One night 
he climbed a tree in his sister's yard
like Zaccheus trying to see Jesus
hollerin’ Repent! Repent! Repent ya goddam sinners!  
Didn't hush till somebody took a shot at him.
On that and many a night, soberin’ up around two a.m. 
the Lord more on his mind than ever, he'd run 
like hell to preacher's house, beat on the bedroom window 
till the weary mountain reverend stuck his head out 
to assure Ic’rus his sins was forgiven.
One night, preacher's wife, tired
of these moony confessions, tore out on him with fire 
poker in hand screamin’ Ic’rus you'll be churched 
if you don't stop this nonsense! Now go and sin 
no more and don't come back here till you're invited!  
Takin’ serious her threat 
Ic’rus pared down his drunks to two a week, never failed 
to thank preacher's wife every Sunday though he never 
was invited to her house. He took to livin’ by his wits 
in the woods, bathin’ in the river, still rantin’ ‘bout redemption
earnin’ him the nickname of John the Baptist - JB to his friends.
Which was fittin' because knowin’ gamblin’ 
was dangerous but not believin’ it a sin, 
he got a little too good at poker, spent 
his last night on earth around the wrong cook fire 
takin' too much of the wrong people's money 
so they helped him win his place in family lore 
by leavin’ his head in the hollowed out stump of a tree.  

from String Quilt
Some Consolation

I dreamt about her
the beloved cousin who died.
She smoked a cigarette, 
and laughed at my bubbled thoughts
as I sat in a hospital gown
on an examining table
festering about the exchange
my doctor and I might have.
My mother’s father who died 
when I was twenty-six, whom I miss still
also once laughed from the other side
but not in a dream exactly.
I was more awake
than asleep
when his dead voice floated
to me over the phone
and he chuckled when I asked my question
about God. It seemed like a proper question
until he laughed.
Some who have sailed away
have not laughed in my dreams. My father
his father, as tossed and distant
in death as they were in life.
Others have never returned.
It’s not the coming back or the lack of it.
Their laughter is the thing.
What’s so funny?
Is it because I am just an oyster 
letting the whims of this fickle ocean
move me?
Hard on the outside, inside, soft.
Easily dislodged from resting places
until there seems to be no place left,
I grind, I work, encase the irritants,
coat them, hide them
trying to make from them wings 
to fly or legs to stay.
Instead, I make stupid pearls.

from String Quilt

The Far Edge of Summer

gets here earlier
each year and as July
closes around me
on this rocking pier
I listen, heavy-lidded
as low squeaks 
of moorings,
sounds of ducks
and splashes and motors
of boats become smaller
as if I am stretching away
connected to this world
by just the thinnest
ligament of memories
these fading sounds awaken:
how we made up
our own names
for places – Eagle Island
Goat IslandBloody Nose Cove.
We were the age my daughter
and her cousins are now
when we spent all day 
on the boat, never calling home
never being called
to account for ourselves. We skied
and swam and talked about
fishing, but fishing 
was too quiet for us by then. This lake
helped me escape.  
Now, traitor, it frightens and mocks me
for the old woman I am becoming.
I squint up from my book
at the youth in my life 
who stroll by me
dragging towels
they won’t have to launder
yet. Young rascals who don’t care
they are twenty minutes later
coming off the water 
than I told them to be.
I watch their brown young legs
wick past me 
up a grassy green hill.

Iodine Poetry Journal

Circadian Contrarian

I have crept from room to room 
like a lazy nomad’s wife
to wander quietly
to hide, by nothing more 
than the absence of light.

My head does not seek 
soft pillows or places
when you are in your dreams
hunting a path or a gate,
some way to escape 

before the haunting comes.
I keep my eyes open 
and wide, on the ghosts.
My rest seeks no pattern
approval or instruction.
It asks for no help
and no help is given.

Carpe diem quam
 minime credula postero
the great poet wrote long ago.
Carpe noctem was left for the lunatics 
only.  Carpe noctem slogan 
for ambitionless woman.

But ambition is lunacy
wearing its day clothes.  
So what if my days 
wax and wane in a way
unwritten in your books; 
so what if sometimes 
my dawn shares my supper
and looks silvery white like a pearl.

Dedicated to my fellow night owls