Poet’s Corner: Getting Religion, Sitka Sound, Buckle My Shoe, Ojo Caliente, Curtains of Night

Here is the latest installment of Poet’s Corner, presented by the Edmonds-based EPIC Poetry Group.

Getting Religion

This child of frog and deer and stone

can only trust that she is safe;

this landed mermaid will not yet know

whose finger strokes her face.

And I, her newborn mother,

must capitulate to time and wait —

how long — to hear her unknown voice

say, “wasn’t that a ride?”

Tonight, in clean hospital linens,

we lock dark eyes in dim light,

strangers bound forever,

sucking hard on faith.


Susan Pittman

~ ~ ~ ~

Sitka Sound

Great Uncle Peter pulled so many salmon

from these waters, they named the town for him.

Now my stringy girl digs a rod into her hip

and reels up another fat-jawed ling cod.

Her pole arches the same fertile sound

my grandmothers crossed on proper steamers,

swapping their emancipated educations

for moonlit canoes and hikes with chums.

My brother braces her back as she hauls

steady against the entire Inside Passage.

He nets the thing, her fifth, and clubs

its bulging head. She does not look away.

Across that inlet, my mother was born.

Over that mountain, Dad perfected his shot.

And so far back the memories could be dreams,

I ate dinners with Granddad’s cannery men.

Her sixth. A little Alaskan in her after all,

no one says out loud, considering the purple shoes,

the headphones, the frequent flier miles.

We rumble into town to the FedEx place.

She wants a feast under New England maples,

with a hometown blueberry pie.

Her best friend in audience; her sister

for corroboration. Her history ahead of her.

Susan Pittman

~ ~ ~ ~

Buckle My Shoe

One used sofa, black as the cat that naps,

and a piano solo in the long stretch of night.

Two open kisses, two mugs of peppermint tea,

bedside lists that number the dreams.

Three, four baby in the crib, giggles on the floor

and a warm dryer full of fluff and cozy.

Four, three, too many bottles of shampoo,

who took my mascara and where are the keys?

Three, two on the sofa watching movies

with Ben & Jerry. She beats her wings and flies.

One o’clock in the morning back again,

The piano drums loud, without objection.

Susan Pittman

~ ~ ~ ~

Ojo Caliente

For two hundred a day, plus meals,

I can ease my responsible back into the same lithium silk

of steaming mountain water where the Tewa once paid

with only their birthright, to make peace and give thanks.

Dim clouds of vapor hang on the surface,

reluctant to rise in what has laced ochre cliffs with icy drifts

that prism the morning light. I inhale and dissolve

in a tentative peace that leans on inadequate apologies.

A Tewa woman, her step also cautious with age,

and her daughter, strong like mine, perhaps bathed together

after a day of travel or worship, and their descendants live on

in the pueblo over the ridge, and clean our rooms,

perhaps, as we soak.

Susan Pittman

~ ~ ~ ~

Curtains Of Night

“It’s no secret that bluegrass music is all about lonesome.”

Wayne Erbsen, Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association

“I Remember You Love in My Prayers”
William S. Hayes


 When the curtains of night are pulled back by the stars,

and the beautiful moon leaps the sky,

my mother sang to me before bed.

A pretty picture, but I heard the sad

underneath my flat pillow, before drifting off.


It was the same song her father sang to her in the 30s

when she was growing up with a depression view

of loss around every corner, but nothing a pot of oatmeal

couldn’t hold off, as long as you didn’t complain.

My grandfather played banjo and piano in those days


And crooned her off to sleep with a hillbilly tune

by William Shakespeare Hays, who wrote hundreds of songs

about railroads, rivers, and log cabins. He was also,

like my grandfather, a reporter and newspaper editor

and, unlike him, like a steamboat captain.


And the dewdrops from heaven are kissing the earth,

my mother conjured in her sweet, trembling alto,

it is then that my memory flies, She closed her eyes

and I felt a longing that would be my heirloom,

a vivid love that lives only on the other side.


As if on the wings of some silvery dove,

the words went on, preparing me even then

for a sentence that meanders around a lingering curve,

perfect weights and stresses on each word,

in haste with the message it bears


The lost love passed down from the Civil War to me

entered my dreams each night, made sweet

with the correctness of melody and meter,

to tell you I love you wherever you are

and remember your love in my prayers.

Susan Pittman

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Susan Pittman is a proud member of EPIC and the Poetry Group led by Gerald Bigelow. Her poetry has been published in Stone Canoe, 3 Elements, Ocotillo Review, and other print and online publications. She has studied with Sharon Olds, Carl Philips, Gail Mazur, and Tom Lux at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Omega Institute, and Emerson College. She teaches at Skagit Valley College. She invites you to visit her website atwww.susanpittmanwriter.com


  1. Thank you. I especially liked “Sitka Sound.” Background: My parents were from Wyoming, and as a teen they used to make me go with them on long hikes to fish for trout: I HATED it. However, in college in the 1970s I became an environmentalist. I still didn’t like fishing, it was never going to be my thing. But I began to enjoy long hikes in the wilderness. And in the 1990s, I lived in Alaska for several years, where I went fishing for salmon on the Kenai River and for halibut (landed an 85-pounder) on Resurrection Bay. I still didn’t and don’t like fishing (although I like eating fresh fish), but I went becaue people invited me to go and I wanted to see how the locals lived and experience nature like them. In fact, I once accompanied a moose hunter, not carrying my own gun, to help out in case he shot a moose (he didn’t), because like Thoreau, I wanted to experience “The Woods” from many perspectives. So, thanks Susan for sharing YOUR perspective. My grandparents grew very poor on the land eating game meat, but I never participated in that life.

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