The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Suanne Fetherolf

True Life


and the day comes when you see it
            as a flicker of film: those clipped childhood tableaus: your father
            holding you up to see fire spill from Yosemite Falls

            the back seat of an ice-blue ‘66 Chevy Bel Air
                        the old field
            of foxtails and struggling grass

            your father snagging a desert
            sidewinder on a stick             flinging it into a canyon—
                        like something

from Disney. You get them mixed up sometimes
            see yourself in film: a lemming
            trying to swim the wide barren sea     slowly weakening

            or a princess waiting to be wakened. You feel
you’ve never been awake         just stumbled on through the dream of
            your life: having babies     washing dishes

            going to work getting up
            to the coughing of the car
the long interruption between the brief freedoms

            of morning coffee     and black night
No great escapades ocean voyages                 moments
            of fame.      What happened

            to that Technicolor sequence you dreamed of:
the path through a primeval forest the paper cut-out prince
            the creeping fairy-tale pipedream? Where

are the books that bounced around your brain         the prizes
            everyone said you’d win?
Ah, that hierarchy of needs   met too late to generate

much generativity.         The hidden truths:  The sea’s rolling wail
has drowned the mermaids’ songs—  The road
            not taken can never

            be taken— Lemmings are not by nature
suicidal but were forced off the cliff by camera crews.
            When it is over

will you whimper  be afraid  regretful?   Still, for all its
            mundanity     you love your life, want more
bloodshot dawns driving to work     the moon trailing alongside

            like a plump-faced Muse.
It’s your own fault     you didn’t follow her beyond daylight’s gray erasure.
By the time you’re self-aware                 you’ve already lost

so much.  The brittleness of life—
                      an osteoporosis of Time.
            You can only be watchful of what’s left—

Stand in a circle— spit
           three times— don’t dare rejoice
                       or it will shatter.



Suanne Fetherolf

Bird in the Attic


it sweeps the attic end to end—
lifts its wings like sails, then settles,
saddles the beam like a cowboy cocking
its tail for balance— The open window
is the golden eye of a needle it can’t thread,
can’t find its way out to where evening
honeys its way through the clouds—
It squawks perched
like a preacher in a pulpit—the light, find
your way to the light—

But now let me tell you
how he, too, sought that window—
like the bird in the attic— and finally
escaped through his own slender splice of night.
On midsummer eve
we found him a perfect
grave in the crook of the river
where it pauses in shaded
shallows before a last desperate rush
to the gorge— And the way
his ashes clung to the riverbank and took
the shape of the mud where our feet dangled—
made me see: he never
wanted to leave us.
It was a good place:
tiny shadows darting underwater—
overhead, a swarm of butterflies
swirling, quick wings glimmering
in the long evening light,
whisperings in the trees, whispering
O sweet soul, I wish you
nine hundred gentle lives, I wish you
the escape of a hundred-million
    molten amber evenings.




SUANNE FETHEROLF lives in New Jersey where she teaches English and Creative Writing, and where she earned her M.A. at Drew University. Her work has appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, Clementine Poetry Journal, The Milo Review and Gravel Magazine, among other journals, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.



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