the poetry that matters

Susan Wolff

Susan Wolff is an interdisciplinary poet/artist 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 the The Antigonish Review, Antigonish, N.B., Repository Press, Prince George, B.C., New Poems by Asoke Chakravarty, Calcutta, Y Sin Embargo, an international arts-culture magazine, Issues # 21, # 22, # 24 and # 25, Barcelona. In 2013 she finished editing a book-length poem with Phil Hall and David Kent on the situation in Israel-Palestine. Current plans include the production of accompanying images which is expected to be carried out through the collaboration of a British photographer during the coming summer months.

In the last year she has had 4 art shows, 1 in Germany and 3 in Toronto and her blog is http://susanwolffartpoetry.wordpress.com.


Back alley woman


La tristesse  no-way-out in the backside of the city stoned flesh

bodied in cement      It is my honour that I find in these back alleys

honesty and the lies in her body      lies and honesty of my desire or

lust or            now love      I lose my keys in my back pocket and crawl into her bed

sheets full of wrinkles and street dust       washing myself in her hands between my legs

and my gut between her heart and her skin         white cement glass walls of the cit barbed wires and the harbor where the ships come in


backyards and ladders to where               greased walls along her vagina and the cement of cities   stockyards and death of cows groaning in a heavy death the others leaning into them the stink hangs

                    I feel so alone when I leave. I return to a place I don’t know      she is my
          home myself I have looked in the needle’s eye and the cc marks on the side of the glass
                     never enough         

                                                  the sponge she uses lies on the table, and the elastic band
                                        is tight on my head around all the thoughts I’d like to erase



outside the windows the dirt of the city breathes in through the cracks and I can hardly breathe

she is there



on the billboards

bending over

                              pulling up her stockings

                              my mind disappears

                              she is three times removed and yet as close as pulled nails


the lights of the apartments are one

are two

three blinks above the horizon

never fading and always in the background

over the billboards              the neon lights turn black at dawn


                                                she looks out from restaurant windows from the liquor store bars


it is always 3:30        night or

some time I have not seen


pavement and lace curtains are both a dull grey hanging over the expressway on the way home
  blue and red sometimes purple but I always return to grey in the skin and deeper








The Moravian Lover


flight                                         This space moves you from one place to another

Bohemian vineyards not pearls around the neck but

rows of sun in an ante-room to elsewhere

that was a long time behind iron



room in a chateau hotel in a countryside                                My private courtyard is a lost time when Orfeo disappears



first meeting                               In his place comes a man from Moravia talking of the secret life of gifts not of the old economy

of a lost place and time  He speaks of the groom with a slur in his voice


The exchange of money and commerce is a Marxist nightmare but the opposite is hedonism. We don’t exist in a time of gifts, its greatest success and

worst, advertised in Troy? Around us,


the candles flicker on rare duck. The families of the pleasure-seeking gift-givers hide their pain and I say to him that there should be a limit to pain, a sharing of pain and

that the midnight gift under white linen leaves dresses red and


streaked shirtfronts of those who didn’t get gifts. He smiles and asks for an early morning meeting.



no maps                                     I have nightmares of his wife watching him, of his lover’s lover in a pain smile, of the sister of his lover who had four times missed the river, of her husband’s heartbeat in fossil wood . The grandparents


the nephews, the cousins, all brush off flecks of red under the strobe lights of the first dance. And I? I have grown in the scent of my lover, in his absences and presences as he


lies on his bed beside his wife. I came here for a wedding trying to understand something of its meaning but the tourists have maps, and I have no book, no pages of maps. I know the secrets of the wedding guests but not my own



eurydice                                     why do I talk of gifts and commerce? Why do I think of them when we want transparency and mirrors that reflect a true image? My former lover, or soon-to-be former lover, came from the ravines left by glaciers and the music calling for Eurydice made me rise. Now here without a


the red room tastes of the vineyard that my Moravian would-be-lover has just bought, a metallic taste of humic acid, peats and bogs where we sink in the swamps full of sex without light, of desire without a beginning, a kiss that burns your lips in scars




eccentric                                    this would-be lover plays his flute in the Louvre, past Aphrodites as young as spring before it becomes  brown edge of rose. I had dreamed of this man, thinking we would dance under lamps but the bulbs are burnt out and my legs don’t move. The violinist draws


salt tears across his bow as I hear the wedding in thistles in moorlands and something was deleted which I.  




secrets                                                There is the secret of the blind mirror. In this mirror, his lover’s daughter has the arms of her dead father around her. She swims in the trees, weaving the branches with memories of women’s shoes outside her father’s door while the shutter to her mother’s room remained closed




gift givers unrecognized                Who am I to talk of gifts and blind mirrors and of the balance of pain when my skin dark Romeo, this Orfeo, leaves his wife’s bed and nothing remains unchanged or unreflected. In the whispers in the courtyard, behind the curtains, my dark lover looks at the red chair where the


Moravian Lover sits. Between us stands reflected in the wood, one glass of red wine from his newest vineyard




the flight out                                        With my lover’s eyes on me from behind that curtain the journey home is an escape out of the red room, running between the walls of commerce and terminal pipes in their mechanical heavens. Where are the true reflections of desire and desire for what?



over the metropolis                      Heading toward the city with her two thousand year search for no mirrors and no gifts this I see below me the silver snake that lies in the sun and the outline of a scent of


dark skin. I lose the fear warmed in the sun, a simple silver liquid of no existence but for the other
without whom we are alone; so I ask , what and where are the beginnings?









For Manuel in Barcelona


Your email with your images says that this is

until you come

and when will that happen?


The photos of you now as opposed to the ones you sent when younger, have of course more depth to the face. More of life in them. Also less of the seducer, at least the one with the glasses in your mouth.


I would have lain down in the road with that one with the glasses and gotten run over.

So your lips. Well of course, I can't feel them in a photo but I have better idea of a lower full lip, with a sensuality to them, I think


Just met your “barceloneta” in youtube. You have lived by skin and sun all your life, bodies and sun and bodies and water and bodies and young skin and bodies and bodies and bodies and bodies, the life of skin and pores and mouths, running through the secrets of each one, not knowing if it was only a door to the next one.




I in Montreal with snow and summer and a sudden advent of spring and hair between your legs and bodies on the roofs, baking in the sun and blue water in the pools on top of the mountain


and two lovers wandering around an old artist's studio and water and bugs and summer fountains dripping in the night and Vancouver sand to the bush of Nigeria where a horse rubbed himself in


the night behind a white house as summer comes and a fuck, just a fuck to own, to say this is mine and the streets of Baltimore with flying newspaper and old black men driving rag


and trade carts, the nicest men in the city beside the black man of Jamaican blues and BMWs and accent breezes and in love for years and never getting into each others skin and Cairo and the


loss of skin, the loss of person and the narrow confines of the back seat of a Mercedes and a body guard and lunch on the Nile and Saqarra and sands and skin disappearing and lust wrapped


in the garbage in the alley and desire squeezed out in the back veranda on a hot afternoon and the lines of a scarf around the neck in the mountains behind Lima and no skin, no bodies and no souls and light disappearing in the black crucifixions, hanging under bat droppings and a firing up of desire on the tops of cars and the tops of hunters' huts in the deep forests of the former Nazi land and skin was somewhere in the memory and the mind and time that had disappeared and then more years of the disappearance of skin and sometimes flying with the archtitect and the no more flying and then the sky opening and wings growing, itching under the skin, at the end of summer, with the cold air conditioner across the table waiting for me to finish this email.





And the disaster of you in the abstract of thought, the philosopher of the sexual? The one of the sensual and the sensually sexual? When does the passion of sex become violence? Is the rawness of it violence? Is the descent to the primordial, a lack of speech? Does the lack of substance become thought? Is loss of self in the other in sex, contemplation? Why do we still not allow ourselves the loss of self in sex as the political and an entrance to the community?



The disaster of sex in postmodern times, in squares and boxes. The limbs so mixed in one another that there is only brown and white and brown and white and breath. A hand reaches out to find where it has been. A space where nothing happens, only the sounds of falling. A light or note of music, a trickle of oil over skin and the movement of an eye as it follows the other one. The music speakers are mute and the CD plays the same track again and again until the dust builds up and blocks the light and then the phrase repeats itself to a number that is forgotten.




Behind the curtains the garden is full of grey and points of light that are sewn for spring. The summer has been forgotten in the sounds behind the light and the winter has fallen again and again. The clock is white in its numbers and would like to be heard but is forgotten before it is seen.

Have you grown tired of all the women? The streets full of walls and cuntscapes? Cigarette ash on a red mouth?

When is the search over?




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                                              May 6, 2013