“Madame Matisse Is Shown Her Portrait, 1913” & other poems by Susan Millar DuMars

Dreams for Breakfast

 
Sometimes everything is blue;
the hills, my hands,
house keys, chimney smoke.
If I bit the air
my mouth would fill with blue juice.
I’m peaceful, though I wonder,
what casts such a big shadow?
 
Or I’m on a bus
with plaid seat covers.
The other passengers
are wilted, short
of breath. I think
I missed my stop.
 
Other times I walk through
a silent city of stone
and nothing is where I remember
except the swans
and the church on the hill.
 
I unwrap these dreams
for you over breakfast.
You say they are big budget,
Technicolour
while yours are pocket sized,
abridged; small men
in smaller circumstances.
You butter the toast and laugh.
 
I smile, marooned
in all this blue distance.
 
Dreams For Breakfast is © Susan Millar DuMars
 
(published in Dreams for Breakfast, Salmon Poetry, 2010)
 

Learning to Swim

for Mary
  
i.
 
Reach and then kick and then kick and then
breathe in the clean smell of chlorine.
The ripples of light making circles
to thread with my body.
 
So what if you won’t take your pill?
If you clutch at your stomach but won’t let me help?
And I kick and then sputter and spit;
no good at this.
 
ii.
 
Next day I find you entangled in stockings and bra.
How to look without looking, be matter of fact?
I have to be brisk
or we both will be broken.
 
Come here, Cinderella, I say when I finally
put on your shoes. It’s time to make tea so I hold
both your hands and walk backward; like teaching
a toddler to stand. Thus we shuffle along.
What must we look like? I say. We’re laughing.
You reply: We look like we’re dancing.
 
iii.
 
A week later, you’re gone.
 
I do twenty laps.
Pulled through the water like thread
in a stitch. As I get out, I feel
nothing but small,
on the edge
of that open space.
 
What have I learned?
Don’t forget to keep breathing.
Don’t try to move water. Let the water
move you.
 
Learning to Swim is © Susan Millar DuMars (from The God Thing,Salmon Poetry, 2013)
 

Madame Matisse Is Shown Her Portrait, 1913

 
Whose is this face?
A pebble thrown in a pond,
sinking grey over black over grey,
further and further away.
 
Whose are these hands?
Fingers unfinished; flippers to flap
around garden and house.
My hands are stronger than that.
Counted coins, wrote ferocious letters,
once. Don’t you remember?
 
Why that hat?
With blushing rose
and peacock feather.
What does that sexless creature
need with a Paris hat?
Why not a dowager’s veil,
a housemaid’s cap?
Why not a wimple and beads,
my Lord!
The better to toil toward
your veneration.
 
I’m a good disciple, you will allow –
everybody loves you now.
 
Why these tears? Why this feeling I’m sinking?
Portrait of Madame Matisse. Who is she?
Henri, my love, my dear old friend.
When did you stop seeing me?
 
Madame Matisse Is Shown Her Portrait is © Susan Millar DuMars (from The God Thing)
 

Sunday Morning, Lorient

 
There’s a man wiping down the carousel
as if it’s the only thing that matters.
Beneath his white rag flattered panels
blush and flash like fallen sections of sky.
 
There’s an old man up on his balcony
wrapped like something precious in his white robe.
He’s looking at the church across the square.
The air so still he can hear the choir.
 
A pine cone rattles to the cobbles.
Jackdaws, and the warm wood of this bench
expanding as though with breath.
Small white roses grow on the square,
 
their fluttering faces like candles.
I need no other cathedral.
 
Sunday morning, Lorient is © Susan Millar DuMars (from The God Thing)

Hampshire College Halloween 
 

Wearing prom pink with white gloves, I was hypnotised by
                                                my skirt spinning.
Chuck and Mike were lazing on this bench –
                                                the moon was silver.
And Andy walked by, dressed as Jesus in a long white toga, hair wavy
                                                like a midnight ocean.
And he was carrying this crazy cross, big as him, and it was
                                                white in the moonlight.
And Andy said “hey” and we said “hey”, and then Chuck got up
and he was walking behind Andy,
                                                matching step for step.
And I said, “Watcha doin’?” and Chuck said,
                                                “Following Jesus, Dude.”
And we giggled and got in line and then we were all followers of Jesus.
                                                And Jesus led.
And if Jesus drank, we drank; and if Jesus danced, we danced;
                                                and if Jesus did a bong hit,
                                                we praised Jesus,
and did one right after Him.  And we fell around giggling
                                                and Jesus giggled too.
And He led us through the silvered night, and we were free;

                                                and no one got nailed to anything.
 

untitledSusan Millar DuMars has published three poetry collections with Salmon Poetry, the most recent of which, The God Thing, appeared in March, 2013. She also published a book of short stories, Lights in the Distance, with Doire Press in 2010. Her work has appeared in publications in the US and Europe and in several anthologies, including The Best of Irish Poetry 2010. She has read from her work in the US, Europe and Australia. Born in Philadelphia, Susan lives in Galway, Ireland, where she and her husband Kevin Higgins have coordinated the Over the Edge readings series since 2003. She is the editor of the 2013 anthology Over the Edge: The First Ten Years.