Susan Thomas

The Hand Waves Goodbye

Poems from The Hand Waves Goodbye:


Horses Of Apollo
after Brassaï

The horses of Apollo have galloped
into the forest, left the statue where
they were forced to stand all day
with Apollo. They stomped and bit
each other, impatient to gallop across
the universe and pull the stubborn sun
into night. Here in Paris it is cloudy all
the time. Apollo is a lazy fuck who never
spurs them on, so they canter under trees,
eat horse chestnuts, whisper to each other
in the manner of horses with no work to do.
They sway in the wind and tell stories of how
they fished Dawn from the sea and sprang
Helios out of eclipse. But that was long ago
in Delphi, before they had to be statues, when
they were alive and everything depended on them.


Annunciation
after Fra Angelico

Sometimes an angel enters the garden.
He hesitates at the doorway, as though
his shoes were muddy, or perhaps
he has news that will distress us,
that will change the way we live our lives,
that will alter the course of the world forever.
The angel gestures, as though he wants to say
he’s sorry for intruding. Sorry how
news comes to us in strange ways.
Perhaps he is lost, or meant to visit someone else,
someone who is not so afraid.
I believe he will speak to me now, say words
in a language I won’t understand. But suddenly
he freezes and I feel something like light entering me.
The angel’s wings must quiver as he watches
how terrifying news enters the bloodstream
in its course through this all too human body.


Circe

Lucky for me he left when he did.
Lucky his crew was homesick.
I’d forgotten how to live my life:
how to eat and dress and sleep
and what to do when I wake.
We spent most of our time in bed
where he borrowed my immortality
and I became almost human.

Will he say I was a witch
who kept him under a spell?
In fact, I was the enchanted one.
I wove his tunics, washed his back,
cooked banquets every day.
And his crew, I let them become
whatever they wanted to be.
Some were lions or wolves,
these were happy as swine.

Now I’m free to roam the woods,
and, of course, he left the babies.
They’ll keep me busy for years
until, according to Hermes, Ulysses’
oldest boy comes back to marry me.
Twenty years means nothing at all.
It will pass like a ship setting sail.
I have no hope for time.
Except this suddenly ticking heart.



The Hand Waves Goodbye

For D.L.

The night before its amputation
the hand decided to run away.
It left a trail of fingerprints
all the way down the hall,
exited the automatic doors.
Passed through the garden,
slapped through marshes,
smacked at the brush, and
thumbed a ride on the highway.

It longed for the voice whose
arm was asleep in the hospital bed
who dreamed of a fist asleep
at its wrist, singing a song the hand
used to strum in the sad hours
after the sun had fallen behind
the hills that tip into the pasture.

The voice’s feverish song
blew night’s sharpness into
the room where music the hand
could no longer make imagined
the wrist that bent to the beat
while it wailed and pounded
the star-pierced sky and it shook
the hand deep into darkness.


Rue de Nevers
after Atget

Wait for me in the Rue de Nevers
on the second floor of the gray hotel
where the sad bed sings our names

and the open window listens
for our footsteps in the empty street.
Wait for me in the Rue de Nevers.

In the Rue St. Severin I dream
of the open window in the room
where the sad bed sings our names.

In the Rue St. Severin I stand
behind the shuttered window while
you wait for me in the Rue de Nevers

and I watch my dripping laundry hang—
wash cloths, trousers, tiny mittens.
While your sad bed sings our names.

Listen for my empty footsteps
on the vanishing cobblestones.
Wait for me in the Rue de Nevers
where the bed sings our names forever.

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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