Aug 16, 2019

Word Swarm

I have found rejection and criticism comes with a poetry book. Not everyone who writes one faces it, but my self-published, Indie publishing, attend a book fair as an author self has had more than her fair share of it. There are times I’ve felt I had the plague. People sidestep, don’t give eye contact, or drop the occasional inquiry about what kind of books I write only to respond when told it is poetry with their affirmation, I don’t like poetry.

I had one author tell me, “Oh, you write poetry, it doesn’t require research. It all just comes from your head.”

Well, my head is full of lots of things. Things based on fact, fantasy, emotion, dreams, harsh reality, and on and on. If I have written a poetry book of one hundred poems, I have written a book of one hundred stand alone literature pieces. (Excuse my boldness in calling my work literature.) Oh, and the research thing, I do research when it is necessary to my writing.

I think writing, as with any art form, takes boldness to put it on public display knowing it can bring criticism. I have my pity moments at times but refuse to give up my passion because someone wants to pour vinegar on effort or content. I can grow from critique. Criticism is a word swarm of gnats I don’t have to entertain or give validation.

by:Susie Clevenger

Poets United ~ Moonlight Musings: the Interactive Edition, #1

Jul 7, 2019

I Never Leave Home

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” ― Maya Angelou, All God's Children Need Traveling Shoe

I was born from a spirit who couldn’t find home. My mother was angry tears, and a broken child searching for a heart to let her in. In her agony she built a wall in her womb that separated us.

When my own agony came from my uncle’s abuse, I was already preconditioned to store silence. I should clarify it was a noisy silence. I was a distraught, crying child who couldn’t be comforted. My mother didn’t know my terror, so I drove her to an edge without an escape.

In roots where secrets are planted in life reasons never sprout leaves so questions brood and grow thorns. It was in that void imagination became my home. I took myself out of what I didn’t understand and lived in books, a butterfly chase, or the wild path of untamed dreams. Within me was a home where pain didn’t have a key to the door or shadows to keep me from sunlight.

Even now at sixty-eight years old with all I’m blessed to own it’s the home within that nurtures me. It is where I can travel in the middle of chaos to find peace, the place where I can grow cackles on windowsills, and no one complains my laughter is too loud or has the bleating of a goat. It is rooms where curtains are words waiting for me to write them on paper. It is a beautiful place where things don’t have to make sense because imagination doesn’t care if you’re hearing voices in wallpaper.

©Susie Clevenger

Jun 2, 2019


Clouds I’d watched form on the horizon are now above me pelting me with wind and rain. The charged air matches my mood. With nothing in my view except shingles lifting from roofs my thoughts turn to men’s eagerness to collect gold to glitter wallets and thumbs, ignoring the truth I am the tree that gives them breath. I inhale the vile air to exhale oxygen.  Their lungs and my roots branch the same temporal, yet they sing their own funerals with every axe. My sisters have been slaughtered to build human temples of vanity. I was spared to shade concrete, a grand gesture to be their token of conservation.

Angry as the spring storm shaking my limbs, I drop leaves in green fistfuls hoping I will be left bare when the wind releases me. Through a lightening strike I see a face framed in a window near my lowest branch. It is a little girl with her hands raised as if she trying to push back the rain. Her frantic gestures and determination shame me. She has often played in the small plot of grass at my feet. Yesterday a woman lifted her so she could place a dandelion bouquet in the center of the heart shaped scar on my trunk.

With limbs drooping I felt both the storm and anger release me. The blond child in the window begins to clap and twirl. I realize love had come to visit me almost every day. A child full of nursery songs and stories about unicorns was a light I hadn’t noticed. My hours had been spent chasing bitter when hope sat on a pink blanket knitted with giggles and curls telling me tomorrow wasn’t lost.

©Susie Clevenger 2019

May 5, 2019

Free From the Scent of Wet Plaster

Insomnia and I became acquainted when I was five years old. It was in the time of monsters where pretend was sacrificed on the altar of real. Innocence didn’t know how it would die, because it didn’t know hell lived outside the castle of dolls in a green room of forced silence. It was impossible to curl into a lullaby when evil’s voice kept whispering, Don’t Tell, from every shadow dancing across walls.

There was no place to run when the house was sleeping; no place to hide when nightmares were tied to the sun in a knot so tight starlight couldn’t bring freedom. The ceiling was a mirror of the secrets on my tongue, and curtains mocked my eyes that never closed.

Years collected hours of wide awake until my body adjusted to running on little rest. I once asked my doctor if he was worried for my health.

Without a pause he answered, “No, that’s your normal. If it had just started, I would be concerned. “

Insomnia has become a companion. I’ve tried to smother her in a pillow, but she just laughs as we take another trip around the moon. We joke about the irony I write in a green room when my nightmares where born in walls covered in green paint. Oh, but we agree this room doesn’t bring fear because it is filled with light and doesn’t bear the overwhelming scent of decaying, wet plaster.

©Susie Clevenger 2019
 248 words

Telling Tales with Magaly Guerrero: a Pantry of Prose, #3 ~ Phobias and Fears

Apr 15, 2019

The Dust Parted

Solid floor held my legs until I was strong enough to walk gravel. Swaddled and delivered to my first home of three rooms with an alley view, I learned to toddle in tiny spaces, but I was always headed to the screen door. Outside were motion, rock dust, and conversation. Too social for silence I’d chatter in my unknown tongue to anyone who passed by close enough to hear. One day the dust parted (my biblical version), and mama took me by the hand to introduce my hard soles to the rock and roll of gravel walking.  I learned  quickly to decide if my destination was worth the possibility of a fall.

rocky ground
doesn’t hinder
born to walk on stones

©Susie Clevenger 2019


Apr 10, 2019

Night of River Bones

The Twila Series

“I heard those spirits again the night the river gave up its bones.”
   Bone River by Megan Chance

The moon won’t come near the river
when the Wailers rattle their spines
against the cattails.
Spring has been summoning bones since
the butterweed tore a hole in winter’s lung.

I’m pink skinned and blood breathing,
and as tempted by darkness as a moth
clinging to a porch light bulb.
I’m more afraid of Tommy Landry
drunk roaming than sitting with skulls.

It isn’t the first time I’ve danced with the dead.
I was born in the bleached cradle of a doe’s ribs
because mama heard the lullaby of corpses
as soon as she felt my first thump in her belly.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to know yet.
Patience didn’t leave a seed in me….
It’s hard to translate when a voice doesn’t
have a tongue…But then there’s tongues
that are only campgrounds for blabbering.

©Susie Clevenger 2019


Apr 8, 2019

The Climbing Tree

The Twila Series

The climbing tree loves to feel human skin against its bark. Well, that is what Grandma Violet always tells me. She says the old elderberry was planted on Rose DuBois fifteenth birthday. It wasn’t very big, but those limbs wrapped around Rose’s leg like a puppy clinging to its mama, and her brother, Jimmy Lee, had the hardest time releasing her from it. Story goes that after it was planted if you sat next to it on a windy day, you could hear it whimper.

No one has ventured out to the DuBois place in years. Rose left in 1950 when she was eighteen and moved to New Orleans. She said she was tired of backwater stains on her shoes and singing hymns when her throat was full of the blues. No one knows what happened to her after that, but they do know the climbing tree missed her. Every time they trimmed its limbs it would sprout a new branch to press against Rose’s bedroom window. It finally got so strong it broke through the glass. One Halloween night her mama heard a crash and went to Rose’s room and found tree limbs cradling an old photo of Rose sitting on a dresser across the room. The next day the family moved out of the house and told everyone they knew they’d willed it to the elderberry.

I’m always testing. The climbing tree story has been swimming through ears for so long no one questions it. I didn’t tell a soul I was headed out to Rose DuBois’ old place. There would be so many no’s spilling from jaws I wouldn't be able to find a path through them. I have about another hour of weeds to struggle through. I want to find out if that tree can really feel skin.

 ©Susie Clevenger 2019

Mar 26, 2019

Battling Crows in My Throat

The Twila Series

There’s not much peace in the swamp tonight, at least not for me. I can’t hear the voices in my head because the bullfrogs swallow all the air as soon as night creeps through the mist. Mrs. Jackson is always harping at me to take my problems to the river bank where there aren’t any tongues to carry tales, but those frogs are so drunk on spring I’m not sure there’s a pencil’s width of moon able to see or hear me. I suppose that’s why ghosts decided to walk along my worry nerve.

Spring air thick as lust
snakes along my skin
searching for secrets
trying to escape my tongue.

The calendar is preaching
revival, but ghosts don’t
like wildflowers breaking chains.

Give worry a twig and it will build a nest.
I’m battling the crows in my throat.

©Susie Clevenger 2019

The Twila Series:

Devil's In the Moonlight

Mar 17, 2019

Feathers Wild as Dandelion Seeds

I always dream of wings. There is within me the desire to fly, to feel the wind’s breath guiding me to where dreams roam wild, where feathers are ink and pen. I believe it is because I carry the weight of my mother’s lost dreams. I saw them in her eyes as she searched every face to see if she could find the soul who could read the stars she couldn’t translate into words. I’m not sure why she left them with me, but I feel them whenever poetry floats just beyond my reach, in the urgency to find my voice in silence.

Where are my wings,
green feathers wild
as dandelion seeds?

Let me climb the tallest oak
so I can hear the sky speak
of the sun’s love of the moon,
and feel the wind teach me
how to fly the grass I walk.

Take me where poetry nests
in the hungry heart of my muse.

©Susie Clevenger 2019

Mar 9, 2019

Conjuring Color

I am so done with winter. I feel like one of my dead roses, lifeless and thorny. There has been just enough cold weather in Southeast Texas to make me feel every day of my sixty eight years. My bones are stiff, my joints ache, and although complaining doesn’t help, I’ve invested a lot of vocabulary in it.

I’m looking forward to humid, sweaty, ice tea summer days.  I wish July would arrive with a truck load of colored daises spilling over the tailgate into the honey buzz of bees pollen drunk in the flower garden outside my library window.

Winter gray and brown seclusion
monotone the calendar forcing eyes
to conjure color in daydreams.

Spell jars spill floral scents
into the incense swirl of incantations
summoning tulips to break winter’s curse.

©Susie Clevenger 2019

The Sunday Muse #46

Mar 3, 2019

Devil's In the Moonlight

The Twila Series

“Twila, you’re too damned curious!”

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard my mama rattle that across her tongue. According to her I was born spine curled into a question mark. She pushes me toward the “traditions’ with her right arm and pulls me back with the “hell no” thumb on her left.

The swamp on my family tree goes deeper than these cypress trees squatted down on their knees listening to the dark tongues of the Atchafalaya. My whole life I’ve watched mama and her family boil reasons in the bath water why that gator birthmark on my hip marks me as the next mambo. I believe that should come with questions.

I’ve never been to a church because there wasn’t an open aisle pew run in the county that would welcome our cackle throng to share communion. Mama said her family’s Hounfò has always been right here on the mud breast of the Atchafalaya. I figure with all of this asking I have stomping on my teeth this is the place to spill them in the mist.

Alone isn’t feeling like it does when I’m walking in sunlight. There must be a thousand eyes staring at me from every tree and root crowding the waterline. Even the moon looks like it’s a skyclops one eyeing my back to measure the length of shiver from neck to tailbone. With all those eyes looking I wonder how many can see the ancestors chanting in my head. I hope the rose water juju in my pocket will keep dark spirits from finding a door in my skin. Mama tells me to never show fear. My wind chime bones keep rebelling.

©Susie Clevenger 2019

Magaly Guerrero over at Poets United prompted us to write prose based on one of our poems either on our blogs or in one of our printed books. I chose to write from my Twila series poems. This particular writing is written as an introduction to my poem, Beneath the Atchafalaya Moon.

The other poems in my Twila Series:

Notes: (No, I don't do voodoo.) Mambo: High priestess 
Hounfò: a voodoo temple and its precincts
Skyclops: My made up version of Cyclops

Poets United ~ Telling Tales With Magaly Guerrero

Feb 28, 2019

Haibun: A Walk Across the Moon

Winter snow spoke to the moon in glitter as my father, sister, and I broke the silence of wonderland with booted footprints. The night was diamond-ed in imagination and none of us spoke for fear of breaking the spell. We had often hiked through daylight woods, but night walks were rare and snow filled ones could be counted on one hand. My father, who never spoke much, spoke a magic journal entry into our collective memories when he said, “Come take a walk with me.”

a father’s magic
came with winter moon and snow
the spell grew deep roots

©Susie Clevenger 2019

Feb 26, 2019

Flying Beyond Stones

"Ireland" by Emily Soto, fashion photographer

I don’t know if I can fly today. Granny Ray, you always told me when I was afraid to remember a butterfly grows its wings in the dark so it will be strong enough to fly when it tears an opening in freedom. I have my toes on the edge, but my heart is a stone pressing me into yesterday. I was nurtured in scars, and night rants. Freedom is a city without a map. Is one kind word enough of a breeze to help me feel my wings? Oh, Granny, I must trust there’s blue sky in this sidewalk.

I can’t move
the stones
in my past,
but I can choose
the direction
of my wings.

©Susie Clevenger 2019


Feb 5, 2019

Needle with a Little Sugar

Don’t drink and spell? Oh, I love to pour a smoky Cabernet in my words. You know those sly slips of the tongue that stick a needle in with a little sugar, but burn when the point reaches pain. Does that sound evil? Not really. I don’t turn the other cheek if I expect a scar. Let’s just say I level the playing field when a lover fails to follow the rules. Restraint is like a rubber band. When it is stretched too far, it snaps. Of course they’re always forewarned, I’ve never been declawed.

wine and stones
will find your bones
if you speak a lie to hurt me

©Susie Clevenger 2019

No, this isn't about me. :) I decided to work on short stories. This blog is a potpourri of writing, and my muse is all over the place lately. (It couldn't be my ADD.) 

Feb 4, 2019

The Voice in Silence

PHOTO PROMPT © Renee Heath

I was hoping it would be a rebirth of sorts, a spiritual retreat, when I agreed to fly to Arizona with Sally and Bill because I felt empty. Sitting in this lawn chair listening to them discuss every reason they planned the trip feels like dropping litter in a prayer. Right in front of us is a tee-pee with a sunset backdrop. I rise to walk away from them and before I can take a step Sally stands up beside me with tears in her eyes and speaks,

“Our noise prevents us from hearing silence. The mountain begs for peace.”

©Susie Clevenger 2019