Poem of the Week, by Joyce Sutphen

I was a girl, walking along the Charles River in Boston on a sunny day, no one else within earshot, when suddenly a young couple got out of a car next to me, the girl in a tight sundress and heels, big smile, radiating friendliness. Her male partner silent, a half-smile on his face.

The girl was full of questions for me. She invited me to join them for coffee, tea, lunch. It’ll be fun, she said. That big smile. But something in me was wary. Something in me knew to smile, excuse myself, and back away.

I’ve never forgotten this five-minute encounter. It’s haunted me for decades, but why? Because they were going to do something terrible to you, I woke up thinking a few weeks ago. They were going to do something indescribably awful, and somehow you knew it.

Last week some friends and I were talking about all the narrow escapes in our lives, all the twists and turns of fate that somehow we’d eluded. Do you think life is just a never-ending series of lucky misses? one of them asked.

My Luck, by Joyce Sutphen

When I was five, my father,
who loved me, ran me over
with a medium-sized farm tractor.

I was lucky though; I tripped
and slipped into a small depression,
which caused the wheels to tread

lightly on my leg, which had already
been broken (when I was three)
by a big dog, who liked to play rough,

and when I was nine, I fell
from the second-floor balcony
onto the cement by the back steps,

and as I went down I saw my life go by
and thought: “This is exactly how
Wiley Coyote feels, every time!”

Luckily, I mostly landed on my feet,
and only had to go on crutches
for a few months in the fifth grade—

and shortly after that, my father,
against his better judgment,
bought the horse I’d wanted for so long.

All the rest of my luck has to do
with highways and ice—things that
could have happened, but didn’t.

Click here for more information about the wondrous Joyce Sutphen.


Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Saeed Jones

I don’t know exactly what it is about this poem that haunts me, but I keep coming back to it. It might be a bunch of things – the Skoal-tin ring in the back pocket and the work-calloused hands that make me think of a lot of boys I grew up with, the fact that I love whiskey and bourbon, the way the self-hatred in it makes me sad and tired and thinking of a line from Mary Oliver that goes You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves, and how hard that is for so many people.


Body & Kentucky Bourbon
– Saeed Jones

In the dark, my mind’s night, I go back
to your work-calloused hands, your body

and the memory of fields I no longer see.
Cheek wad of chew tobacco,

Skoal-tin ring in the back pocket
of threadbare jeans, knees

worn through entirely. How to name you:
farmhand, Kentucky boy, lover.

The one who taught me to bear
the back-throat burn of bourbon.

Straight, no chaser, a joke in our bed,
but I stopped laughing; all those empty bottles,

kitchen counters covered with beer cans
and broken glasses. To realize you drank

so you could face me the morning after,
the only way to choke down rage at the body

sleeping beside you. What did I know
of your father’s backhand or the pine casket

he threatened to put you in? Only now,
miles and years away, do I wince at the jokes:

white trash, farmer’s tan, good ole boy.
And now, alone, I see your face

at the bottom of my shot glass
before my own comes through.


For more information on Saeed Jones, please click here.

My Facebook page.