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