the poetry that matters

Susan Wolff

Susan Wolff is a Canadian who, since the age of 12, has lived and/or worked in India, Nigeria, Peru, the USA, West Bank and Gaza and Germany. She now lives in Toronto.

She has published in Repository Press, Prince George, B.C.; The Antigonish Review, Antigonish, N.B.; New Poems by Asoke Chakravarty 2006, Calcutta, India, 2006; Y Sin Embargo an international arts-culture magazine, Barcelona; Anthology of International Festival of Poetry of Resistance, Calcutta, India; New Poems Asoke Chakravarty 2011, Calcutta, India.

She studied Creative Writing at, UBC with Wayne Stedingh, taught poetry appreciation at the Volkshochschule, Aachen and is editor for 4 poets (Irish-Canadian, English-Canadian, Indian-Canadian and English).

Married to the Gestapo


the poet wrote with splinters on the sunslits in the attic, picked the black marrow from the root of her teeth and set it in her head. white in its thinness, the bone of her collar reflected a verse from revelations in a thin silver line.
she took the pearls that were his eyes and set them in her ears


she wanted to wear a red dress on the border road as she wrapped her hair around his toes and reached the cup around the table, among the table decorations of the wedding planner.  She knew that Judas was in the end seat, or beside her, but she ignored him, washing her husband’s feet and on that wedding night, he made her swear never to leave him, while on the tape his brother’s screams echoed off the bathroom wall when his father came home on leave. He had heard them before he was born, in the sperm and uterine wall; separate spheres of agony. There was no animal fat, no felt hat that healed. In the pre-Lazarus days, he was a happy man but slowly the flaking of a thousand canvases and disintegrating faces became too much and when she thought she was losing him, she pulled him up by her finger inserted, with the chords of the piano on the old record player in a dark room deep in snow on the Dutch side of the border, her home
and he rose
with all the unseen hate as yet unknown


closed the window framing the smokestacks in black.
dust, retaining oils full of cries, stuck in the grooves and the needle repeated over and over.
that entrance, called dark, twists on the sheets, offering itself up. it was a place that tempted me
hanging from a string of heaven on the sheets, I wait to be plugged in, wait for the electrical hum of chaos before it burns through, for the wing in a hot jungle, one movement away from love.
in the water and the dirt of Aristotle, or was it Archimedes, or merely men in the off-hours at the pub, waiting for that cross-over point between two and one, that entry past oblivion, which is one true home

in the archives of the Bundesrepublikbiblioteque, trying to understand him, the dust motes reflected the nightmares of my father and opened their arms. did he think the terror of plucked eyelids was a way? did he think the point of a knife , entering softly, more than many times, watching their faces, was the missing connection? the first sigh on a long path to death? what is death, beyond a matter of dust that cannot be raised in a breath. what is death, but the victory of electrical rods placed at the right level pointing to God, washing his chalice with crumbs. I did not want to be entered like a woman.

over coffee one evening, I picked a grey ash off my shirt, fallen from the red of the skirt of the bride that I was cleaning in the museum and I looked at my wife to see if she had noticed. It had started to fall around my easel and no matter how patiently I cleaned the surface, it fell and fell. I watched her sitting, framed in the window, the light of the canal throwing bars across her and on to the floor between us. This was her home, I thought, and another flake lighted on my sleeve.


it was not the circle of fire the matches left, it was the gold ring that worried her. If the pale lily phallus of Mapplethorpe walked behind her, it was O’Keefe she thought of as she watched him bend over, reminding her of her other entrance of desire.

he sat there promising her slices of oranges
with the tape white and tight
talking of black garters and bullwhips.
there was a little box by the door for tips and in the mirror she was wearing a black top hat
and long red ribbons between her legs.
the record was scratchy, playing Mac the Knife on her MP3
and she could taste lemons
among the boats in the harbour, the oil glistening

then the pain infected his lust
and the infliction of desire asked for more.
the first time, he tied her hands
lighting little fires
at the border of her sex,
black and full of salt


leaning against the stone in the park that morning, the man she saw before dawn, before the other two got there, was blue in his skin and nakedness, dropping his flesh as he had started to do. she pulled the dust more tightly around her, rubbing ashes in her hair to make it stand up. she slit her face in two and peeled one side off, covering it in layers of white until it didn’t exist for many years

in those times
pigs feet looked like pink ballet slippers
tucked row on row on the abattoir shelves.
a walk to the market under the railway bridge
where soot fell
black snow
the smell of cabbages rank
stone walls drenched in urine
parisian urinals off the Champs Elysee.
madonna smile
mona lisa tight tight tight
light chiaroscuro flying cherubs
labial livers on a slab,
urine as a cheap perfume
that won't wash off, eating up the air.
she put on blue eye makeup
too much lipstick like her mother
and sat there waiting for me
in my bed
, he said.
chocolate bunnies
placed at the end of the garden
the night before Easter,
lost their heads
to the weasels.
her son? she never knew why he cried
after his father left his bedroom in the evenings to
smoke his pipe


she grew harder in the nights and in the grass
and when the hole in the sky opened, she said
I’m not going near that light
no where near
I’m nailing my feet to the floor
in pails of cement
I’m wearing hard leather pants
with a plutonium zipper
I’m wearing a chain mail dress
and bracelets of lead
my earrings are circles of pure carbon
looking for a link
and my hair?
my hair is pure fire

but it was said in a whisper.
it was said in the walls of the attic
it was not written down and if, it was torn up

but the work in the dark continued, writing on water again and again, to see if she could do it
turning the warped passages of more dimensions than she could ever imagine


and one day, on the under-surface of the water, she wrote a letter to God warning him that the black holes she had been working on were filling with light. she tucked her head under the pillow with Miles Davis in her earphones and the left side of her heart spoke in irregular rhythms, a soft hiss of gas
below the attic floorboards

the next morning, she slipped into one of his skins
wound the cells of his brain around her head,
locking up his anterior heaven to make sure it was not left behind. removing the pearls from her ears, she turned on her blackberry and, with the children, followed the signal out along the canals on the water light

I will varnish her head

cactus spines sing in the desert in high piccata
too much water
and they dull

piaffe, horse slow elevated trop a shadow piaffe
no movement

missed that woman with the hair
bald patches and scarecrow tufts
who watches me.
I am going to tie her to a chair
with cheesecloth long lengths
round and round her arms
her legs
so she can't move
can’t follow
she's sly
haven't caught her yet

I will close her eyes
and brush her head with varnish
until she glistens
I will paint her lips bright red
and kiss them.
I paint on my left eye, yellow
my right eye blue.
my legs are green.
red toenail polish

humidity is swimming in thin water

Excerpt from:

Poetic review of City of Panic, by Paul Virilio

Chapter 1, Tabula Rasa

2 blocks of squashed vegetables and screaming gulls I think about Toronto or I try to, the way Virilio is doing in Paris, meandering with a moving mind, fingering his way among crevices that he turns over and upside down, that he enters from the side and I smell bean sprouts left too long in the box. I still do not want to put my arms around the powdered faces at the corner of Bloor and Bay. this was early on in the chapter.
by the end of it, the stink of cabbage and sugar-cane seemed firmly grounded on the pavement and I am glad I only have to use the elevator to my second floor apartment which will then only go to the seventh
and return to Basement

my ex body-lover and current cyber lover has an inexhaustible geographical curiosity, flying google earth from tessin to the coast
looking up old maps  for the pisten, sleeping in a one-bulb hotel room on a thin mattress in blue walls. he taught me some of the Paris that is mine and not Varilio’s.  he even,  with his google-finger, was in my back garden last night and I am thinking of going out  to lie between the moonshadow branches to burn up the snow. how long can cyber love exist without the pull of gravity and the desires of mouth?
since we are beyond Galileo’s horizon, what does a diagonal one mean to my Chinese storekeeper who sells me 2 bananas for 88 cents.

(inspired by Silk, by Alessandro Baricco, a novel about desire)

silken teeth on dry rain

orange sunset silk in italy on a bridge

red yards from china
trailing in the dust
on the way to a cocktail party
over sleeping bodies in the street
on cairo's left bank

in charlemagne's former capital                 on the couch that stretches from one side of the studio to the other      lies a length of black that slips and slides as she wraps it around his neck his torso his hips his thigh    behind closed curtains to the patio he paints the breasts of women flowing out of chalk out of graphite out of him                 he's as big as a succulent melon

the black ribbon of road unrolls in front of the bus rumbling over the pits along the high altiplano straight under a cold full moon toward lake titicaca and the forgotten churches of the dead jesuits                            with stone phalluses of incans in the courtyard                            it is to dance to lose your mind        under the thunder of        chicha and coca

the desert is the largest nothing you can find in which to lose yourself or              for that moment continuously sought                 tumbling through someone's body

there is also a heavy cranberry silk
like a swollen bullfighter's cloak
that I could wear to
the waterside bistro to sit and watch
the islands

Other Dimensions 

opening your package with moroccan dust among the  book covers, the soft plastic vase that folds up has no water.  the music you sent  chicken blood and hanging goats
the voice of the desert rushes
palaces of mud
at mid night

               the # 97 bus releases its brakes with a sigh on the journey down to the lake, releasing the faint
          tug of gravity in the ravines cut

drums and desert voices
echo in your chest
under the arch of ribs I
read of wormholes

                      an ambulance cries in the next street, fearful at the intersection
                                                                                                                   of warped passages

if I close my eyes
I will reappear
at the top of saqqara
the steps below me
if I turn out the light tonight
the smell of mint tea will be there on the edge of
a black hole

                                below the earth you feel the wind in the tunnel  before the roar of the train
                                echoes in this room and the ten or eleven other dimensions are 
                                                                                                                              places to go

wind voice in the throat erupts
fingers on an accordion but not Paris
where will we go?
baguettes and fava beans
mixed with sand
camel heart beats flutter in the stone

                                among green glaciers I listen to the ticking
                                of the white clock above my head, fourth dimension beyond love
                                will it be different in eleven?


                                                                                                                                                  Jan 25, 2011 Bookmark and Share