abstract dream



no diariesor any other lettersonly this when Mary's Belgian griffon diedthe painter wroteasking friendsto find her a new dog

(clip)she was thirty-threeautumn in Paris
and send it to her by parcel postshe desires a young doga very young one that will love her

two artistshe paints heragain and again
(dailies)yet restraintshe glazes his oils
he adds highlights to herscareful not to nudge

with his elbowloathe to let flesh spoil luster
the new pup in her armsshe leans forward
(pull back)a shadow unionhe feels the heat

of her breathlike the autumn we metlet's
riskshe murmurs don'the cautions
I'm just an old man who likes horses as you like dogs

Mary Cassatt strokes the dog's muzzle(mask)
its silken warmthwhen we metshe says
thenI began to live
Degas leans back

in the bentwood chair closes his eyestais toi
he says be still


FAMILIAR TENSE, Susan Terris (Marsh Hawk Press, 2019)
Marsh Hawk Review, 2016, and Take Two:Film Studies, 2017




On the savannah, not Rilke’s unicorn or Jarrell’s
eland, but you, Oryx. In the fringed grass of

the little rains, you stalk with sheen and grace.
When you bend low to browse, I mount, ride

bareback, clutching the twisted spires of your horns
as you bolt away. But you must never climb

the stairs to my house. Never expect a place
laid out at our table. Nor should you

appear one-horned to breech the gate of
my hermit’s retreat. Instead, as I grip your

smoky flanks with my legs, lead me deep, then deeper into the wet, wild caldera of time.


Familiar Tense (Marsh Hawk Press) 2019.
Also special thanks to Arts & Letters where this first appeared.