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Sample Poems by Susan Roney-O'Brien

The Architect of Clouds

used to fish at the plane line
between earth and sky-blue nets
trolling from the side of his dinghy
that changed colors with the sun's run.

He wanted islands
where rainbow trout could glimmer
arching their bodies into green
slanting weeds,

mountains from which fog
could rise in early morning
from the cool flesh of water
in a cloak of mist.

He wanted deep
and blue streams, whitewater
and the froth and spray from seas
spuming up against the sides of his boat.

So he drew a breath and blew,
thinking of water,
dreaming ocean and stream,
bog, estuary, pond-

in short, imagining the road
from Skibereen to Killarney
over Knockbrach and Torc-
envisioning the lakes, waterfalls

and as he breathed,
the fabric of dream billowed
from his lips, blossomed
and became cloud.

The Poem as Green Wheel

Now the lean birch emerges:

after hard frost
purple asters
and somehow
in the hollow between
the apple
and spent raspberry canes
a rose floats-

then coyotes,
their calls lightning
across dark,
gather in pearshadow
and feed.


Within the triangular dark
between the outside screen and kitchen door,
the man who couldn't sleep
stands amazed: spring
peepers' tremulous song begins and ends
while he is poised there listening,
wood for the stove in his arms.
And after the song, its absence rolls in-
a tangible want infusing his body.

What woke them-the slammed screen,
the unseasonable warmth, bombs
half a world away-
who can know? But for a moment
he forgot the bills, his teenage daughter,
the job that steals his days.
There is only the sound and then the deep stillness:

he will tell his wife of twenty years
it is enough to hang his life on-unexpected
voices of frogs in February
waking him from sleep, pulling him back
beyond all the things he thought he wanted
and into the throats of singers
who could not know if they were heard
and didn't care, but sang to test the air.


March light, high swoop of herons
and my son sleeps long and deep-
a river over which there are no bridges.

Perhaps a storm breaks beyond his mountains.
Perhaps hail slashes the throats of crocuses
come too early into bloom.

Here in this room walled into silence
he sleeps and I wait for him
to tell me what he will let me know.


Bless footpads of dogs and foxes,
deer hooves pressing hearts into soil,
snake glyphs inscribed between rows of beans.

Bless the curl of honeybees' compass dance,
litmus stitches of dragonfly flight
through midges like krill, krill
hovering within waves,

and bless sweep and gap,
the spaces between white pine needles,
branches that skirt soil, the helix pattern
limbs make.

Bless flame that takes pine and scrub,
and feeds blueberry fields.
Bless fallen berries, acorns
buried against hunger and cold.

Bless all beneath the surface:
roots and rhizomes, worms and moles,
that tunnel below snow, stir the earth
to green bare scorch again

and bless us, the guardians
of all we can or cannot see,
may not understand,
but shape with our whorled fingers.