Susan Thomas

State of Blessed Gluttony

Review:

State Of Blessed Gluttony is a collection of poems that showcase award-winning poet Susan Thomas' remarkable vision and talent. With subject matters ranging the gamut from fairy tale to dire murder, madness, sumptuous repast, textured history and much more, State Of Blessed Gluttony invites the reader to devour each new free-verse contribution with a fresh appreciation for a wry spin put on seemingly commonplace occurrences. Snow White in Exile: Mother, I dream of dragonflies /​ and insect wings, the furry undersides /​ of bats. I dream of poison figs /​ and silver spiders. I dream of you /​ in your tower, stirring potions /​ to preserve your famous beauty. /​ The little men don't know /​ that every time I let you in /​ it's not because you trick me, /​ but that I hope you'll take me home.
--Midwest Book Review


Poems from State of Blessed Gluttony:

The Murdered Girl

Nobody talks about her,
even says her name.
She shows up at funerals
in a fancy shroud and
sits all by herself.
Twenty years ago she
stood on a Florida highway,
in bell-bottom jeans, brown hair
flying in the wind, her thumb
extended in stupid innocence.
Someone picked her up in his car,
left a dead girl in her place.

Here at her father’s funeral
she is frantic to be noticed.
Her mutilated body wanders
through the family groups.
She heaps her plate with lox
and whitefish, spills coffee
onto the mourners’ clothing.
Not even the rabbi speaks her name.
Me, she says, my name. Say it.
He chants the Kaddish and intones
her father’s name in Hebrew.
He invokes Almighty God, reminds
us we must trust Him in all things.

At the burial, flowers hide her tomb stone
next to her father’s grave—rank lilies,
gladiola, chrysanthemum.
After the widow turns to leave
some of the mourners come forward.
The daughter, an aunt whispers.
They part the withered petals,
touch the grave stone and trace
her name with their fingers,
the dates of her meager years.

Cousins huddle at the cemetery gate.
Like them, she would be middle-aged,
have children, husbands, jobs,
divorces, a thickening waist.
On their way home, they see
her on the highway, her t-shirt
and blue jeans in tatters.
She cups her hands around her mouth,
My name, she shouts, is Rona.


Saturday Morning at the River Run

They’re all here.
Everyone and everything
you want and don’t want
to see: neighbors, enemies, drunks,
farmers, lawyers, toast,
scrambled eggs and coffee,
the plumber who ruined
our lives for a year, and
used up all our savings.
Who you’re with is noted
blueberry apple pancakes
and who you’re not with, too.
Last night’s ad hoc couples
shuffle in half-dazed,
not sure of anything,
fresh fruit and yogurt
sprinkled with granola
some shy, some gloating.
I watch the tables,
casing the early bird scene
looking for an extra seat,
jalapeño beancakes
or someone who owes us a favor.
Lucky break! A scandal
distracts us from starvation.
country ham and gravy
The gorgeous boy
a friend once dreamed
she poked the eyes out of,
saunters in the door with
the girlfriend of his brother.
Everyone turns to look and
poached eggs with hollandaise
our place on line is noticed
by a woman who borrowed
my favorite book and never
gave it back. She waves us over,
eggs with grits and cheese sauce
enough cholesterol to share
catfish, homefries, bacon
with half a dozen people.
We dig in at once, letting
bygones wipe the plate clean
biscuits, sausage gravy
and she’s with a new boyfriend,
sourdough French toast
not the father of the baby
she gave birth to last year,
vegetable fritatta with
a side of green tomatoes
or the husband she had
when I lent her the book,
cornbread with peppers
crawfish etouffé
or her lover on the side
whose collection of Kafka
she kept when he dumped her.
Oh yes, she says, so kind of me
Andouille sausage omelette
to let her have the book.
It’s currently out of print
catfish jambalaya
and she passes me the bacon,
offers to lend it back as I
pass her the toast, absolve
her of all past sins, absolve
us all of everything in
this state of blessed gluttony.


Windowlight Supper
after Pavese

The disappearing sky has thrown blue all
over the uplands. The hills are blue, the fields,
even the cows and the trees behind them.
I can still pick out twigs and the frozen

apples clinging to their fingers. Deer float up
in the blue, not quite invisible, watching me watch
them eat the frozen apples while I pick at what’s left
of my dinner. I can still make out the food

on my plate, blue tomatoes, blue rice, blue onions.
Soon the stars will fling themselves into darkness.
Nothing ever stops. Time makes no difference.
It circles overhead, watching me. I swallow

my dinner and listen to the clatter of plants
and seasons. I stand at the window, envying
the stars for their chummy ways with each other,
for the brilliant lives they lead in the frozen

throat of the cosmos while I hold fast
the warm house, this room with chairs and books
and table holding food I planted last year in
the tipped bowl of garden under this window.


Total Dioxin Barbie

Total Hair Barbie is tired
of paying taxes for military buildup.
Sparkle-ized Barbie is pale.
She hates bovine growth hormones
in her strawberry milkshake.
Aerobic Barbie is flat on her back.
She is sick of supporting
multinational industry.
Even Hawaiian Fun Barbie is laying low.
The Barbies have just heard the news:
PVC plastic contains dioxin.
They have a body burden,
and Ken may be shooting blanks.

They are calling a doctor to cure them.
“Dr. Seuss,” they are telling the doctor.
“Come help us. We threw up in our beds.”
Dr Seuss tells them to take off
their diamond stud earrings
and their silver strapless sheaths,
to remove their pink plastic bracelets,
and their honeymoon outfits.
He thinks they should
grow out their wavy platinum hair
and throw out their see-through white lace tights.
He advises them to run naked in the hayfields.
To gather wild raspberries and feast on them.
To drink dew from a daylily’s cup.

The Barbies are feeling better now.
They are going native.
They are wearing grass skirts
and tiny halters of pink, chartreuse and yellow.
Radicalized Barbie has taken matters into her own plastic hands.
She is giving news conferences
and briefing the media.

The Barbies are telling Monsanto
they can’t manufacture the environment.
They have declared war
on the whole petrochemical industry.
Eco-terrorist Barbie is lobbing grenades
at the Chlorine Chemistry Council.
The Barbies are jumping from airplanes,
but they can’t escape what they’re made of.
Their silicone breasts explode on impact,
defoliating the suburbs.

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Selected Works

Short Story Collection
The characters in Among Angelic Orders are harassed by the distant and not-so-distant past, by the future, by this world and the next. They live their lives in a state of ambivalence, longing for something they have lost, while hanging on desperately to what they have. The tone of the collection is funny, sad, loving, sarcastic. These are stories of mischief, yearning, confusion, loss and the random nature of mercy that defines our human condition.
Poetry
"Quick, open these pages and meet The Empty Notebook-the enduring nothingness out of which all is generated, the negative capability on which artists thrive, ecstatic world-wanderer, canny literary imitator, driven self-obsessive-as vivaciously, and audaciously, imagined by Susan Thomas. Pleasures await." .
-Jeanne Marie Beaumont
Incredibly original... by turns ironic, tragic, comic... paradoxical gusto of pathos
-Richard Jackson
Full of meaty poems and wry surprises... Thomas’ reach is broad and daring.
-Maxine Kumin
This delightful—and long overdue—collection shows Susan Thomas at her delicious best.
-Jane Shore
Poems in translation
“The major portion of this ambitious translation is devoted to Pascoli’s revisionist version of Homer’s epic; in it Odysseus does not return home, slay the suitors and embrace his wife. Instead, he falls into a deep sleep, sails past Ithaka and is forced to revisit his former route, complete with heart-stopping adventures and profound grief. The narration is deft, elegiac, and intensely lyrical, making this book a pleasure to read.” .
-Maxine Kumin