Susan Fuchtman

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the poet

Currently living in Iowa, Susan Fuchtman writes poetry, memoir and short stories. Her work can be found in Plume, Emerge Literary Journal, Stonecrop Review, Stone of Madness Press, Reckon Review and elsewhere.

the poems

Weight Bearing

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            Before I took a breath, before my blood

            rerouted, while my eyes were still closed,

            my parents argued about their individual

            visions for me, and after hours, days, after

            questions and explanations, they stepped into

            each other’s dreams and chose my name.


            Adam and Eve’s first responsibility

            was naming the animals, and even then,

            before sin and brokenness, before

            the veil was torn to make things right again,

            sitting there in that paradise they proposed

            and compromised and did the best they could.


            I visited my parents yesterday, and if you

            were there, at first you might only notice

            their faltering gaits, knobbled fingers,

            and unwavering opinions,

            but as the day progressed, you’d see

            they’ve not forgotten how it felt

            to hold me, stroke my hair, kiss

            my baby cheeks, to sacrifice a lifetime—

            to give me a name.


            I thought about all the names written

            in all the world in all time—

            charcoal on cave walls, quill and ink on papyrus,

            blue ballpoint on number ten envelopes, crayon

            on school papers, typewriter ribbon

            on essays, sharpies on name badges,

            pixels on phone screens, fingers in red dirt—

            How does the earth bear the weight of them?

Riders

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            I think you,

            meaning the gray-haired audience

            in a dark bar on the north side of Chicago,


            will like our arrangement of this song.

            The guitar glisses into space.

            From closed eyes I see stars


            pulsate down to a green pasture,

            mating-marked sheep

            grazing, dead tree in the center.


            Out of the ominous sky,

            lightning. Tree flares

            flame, grass too wet to catch.


            I open my eyes, sit back. Irrelevance

            hangs in the air like smoke.

            The singer’s voice softens


            to a whisper, tapping out

            riders on the storm like impatient fingers

            on a table, waiting for the next bright blaze.

What If Wars

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            were fought by old people

            say, 60, who have retirement in

            their sights

            and grandchildren they hope to

            see grow up—

                            so they take vitamins

                            and do exercises or maybe yoga,

                            and eat organic and get eight hours

                            of sleep—

            what if those old people were

            dressed in camouflage and sent

            to basic training where they

            climbed over walls and crawled

            under barbed wire while live ammunition

            was shot over them

            and then, having demonstrated their fitness,

            were given guns and 50-pound packs

            and loaded onto planes

            to go to a country they may or may not be

            able to point to on a map, a place where they

            may or may not understand what is

            being fought over, a place so far away that

            they can’t come home for Christmas and

            little ones will cry and say, ‘I miss my Grandma.’


            And what if the other side did the same,

            and the battlefields were filled with grandmothers

            and grandfathers and great uncles and aunts

            and brothers and sisters and mothers and

            fathers, all in camouflage and all with guns—


            You’ve already guessed this poem isn’t very clever

            because you know what would happen:

                            The grandmothers would bring sugar cookies

                            and the grandfathers would share cigars and talk

                            about baseball or soccer, and the guns would be forgotten

                            as big picture albums were pulled from back pockets.

                            They would forget what they were supposed to

                            be fighting about, and host each other in their

                            respective homes, maybe a container on base here

                            or a tent there or a foxhole in between.

            Because by the time you are old, it’s not that

            you’re so feeble that you can’t remember, but

            you know there are some things better

            not remembered.


            And by the time you are old, what you must

            remember is that time is short and life is precious

            and life is short. I apologize for repeating myself

            but it’s so easy to forget.

Publishing credits

Weight Bearing: Emerge Literary Journal (Issue 16)

Riders: exclusive first publication by iamb

What If Wars: won an Honorable Mention in the

  Sinclair Community College Spectrum Awards 2015

  and was published in the awards booklet