Susan Thomas

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The Empty Notebook Interrogates Itself

Poems from The Empty Notebook Interrogates Itself:

A Riddle

What is bound and gagged
and sits on the shelf
unless it has something to say?

The Empty Notebook Interrogates Itself

The empty notebook wonders
about its own existence. It wants
to know how blank space
can fill a void, how emptiness
can be a burden. When
a page detaches itself,
the empty notebook feels pain
ruffle its edges. The empty notebook
thinks emptiness contains something
more than nothing, but is filled
with possibility, with longing,
with the urge to start from scratch.

The Empty Notebook and Code Alert

The empty notebook has nothing to say
about Iraq, or the murders in Rwanda,
the genocide in Darfur, the massacres
in Hebron and Haifa, the bombing
of Beirut. The empty notebook insists
its slate is clean. It changes its cover
to orange then red and back to yellow.
Terrified by rumors, it listens to bulletins
on the hour, receives intermittent briefings
from unreliable sources. How can it tell
where danger lies, in the street, in the air,
on the shelf? The empty notebook interrogates
a random sample of all who cross its path.
It avoids racial profiling, is responsible to no one.

Embarrassment of the Empty Notebook’s Pages

The pages resent their whiteness,
dawdle in spiteful moonlight,
exposing sullen margins with
swollen veins like fish-blue streams,
blank surfaces belly-up in the dark.
The pages are tired of waiting
for pencils, pens, and magic
markers, when they know
words are growing every minute ─
grumbling and muttering
over nothing much to start with,
just some fretful chatter that
escalates to bickering. See
how they fling their high-flown
phrases skyward sputtering like
pigs on fire far into the night.

Identity Crisis of the Empty Notebook

I am not the empty notebook.
My pages do not glitter blankly,
spiraled in a smirking cover.
My words don’t harbor silence
to cover what I’m saying. Their
non-existence fills the page with
undercover images. My insidious
presence wallows in a squamous
future, but does not covet the seething
void or fill it with a truant absence.
I’ve been cubby-holed, coastered,
doodled and dined-on, winked at,
cut and fingered. I’ve been high-jacked,
kidnapped, tossed and kissed, stirred,
caressed and shaken. My abuses of
language shatter the sky ─ who cares
if I say banquet when you hear heartache ─
My shadow cracks the sidewalks,
darkens light bulbs, breaks through
doorways while my shredded cover
shrieks from every trash heap.

The Empty Notebook's Lost Memories

Before the shelf: a paper bag -- the stick
and sheen of other notebooks? Or was it
Paris -- an African tango palace, ebony
women pressed against yellow-suited men,
the heat of lunging bodies? Or was there
a dim bedroom in Washington Heights,
a man singing a thousand-year-old lullaby,
with no words, no hope? Maybe there was
a forest -- waving shadows, drizzle, shriek
and murmur of wind, birdsong, scent
of moss, humus, pine sap. Yearly cycle:
bud/​flower/​leaf/​drop. The sun's arc
beyond branches, moon's sweep in
tree-tops. Hum of life before the fall.

A Joke

A rabbi, a priest and the empty notebook
are flying over the ocean. The pilot's voice comes
over the intercom, "We've lost our engines,"
the pilot says, "The plane is going down."
The rabbi says the Shma.
The priest recites the Twenty-third Psalm.
But the empty notebook folds itself
into a paper plane and flies itself to Paris.

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.
"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