Susan Millar DuMars: Six Poems

Among The Trees

snag your name
on a branch
feel it tear off
see the spectre
of God
or the lake
through the trees
know you’d drown
in either

shed the creased bark
of your skin
be muscle blood
lung bone
be all in
all in

and when you emerge
from the woods
decades later
and find your people
on the porch
by the lake
reading guidebooks
and smoking
and no time has passed

keep your back to the trees
who know what you’ve done
who know that you died
and are other

as your husband looks up
and says,
Ready to go?


after Humankind before the Flood, by Hieronymus Bosch

The day God ditched his first draft
rain beat bright on the lake;
beat like a thousand hands slapping
and all the naked people were afraid.
They steered their pleasure crafts toward shore
but the land, like the future, kept moving
out of reach.

They’d thought they had time.
Had wandered drunk in pink sand palaces,
shared the secret smells of their bodies
under six foot flowers, carved the flesh from
pomegranates and set sail in the husks.
Heaved fish onto land to watch them wriggle.
Ate cherries out of ducks’ beaks,
not fearing the pinch.

Until the underbelly of the skysplit open;
cold and clear, the first drops came.



cold dirty green
city water fills your mouth
you are upside down

struggling against straps
that were meant to keep you safe
(we can’t keep you safe)

under the river
I think you’re still thrashing
I see the bubbles

your kayak overturned
before you started shaving
you’re taking years to drown


Welcome To The Waiting

The backless bench, the black river.
Drifts of dirty snow.. The wind.
Your small red hands seek shelter
in your sleeves.
Eyes wet but not crying.

She is, somewhere; weeping into
a policeman’s shoulder.
She can’t find you, has looked
in the place she thought you’d be
and was slapped by the lack of you.
Bad things are always happening
to me, she tells him.

You have done everything right,
are swinging your legs to keep warm
as evening steals the light.
Of course, she will realize.
Of course, she will find you.

You will wait a long time.


Demon in the Hay Cart
after The Haywain by Hieronymus Bosch

All your days are spent here, up in the hay cart,
rolling from what you can’t recall
to what you don’t foresee.

Pot-bellied, blue, with peacock feathered prick,
Demon toots his trumpet nose, stamps his thorny foot,
tries to whip up a sing-song. The fella
on the lute is serious. You hold his sheet music.
Demon plays by feel, favors jazzy numbers.

You want to brush his wings.
They look to you like heavy clouds.
You wonder are they soft,
flexing open like velvet umbrellas?

Demon stamps his thorny foot;
whips up a wee sing-song.



your body is not your body
cats slope around you
politely sniff
breeze moves the backyard tree
to say sshh
sunlight shifts
bars of light warm the floor
your arms good for hugging
stuck open now
your eyes
oh your eyes

someone else will need to shut them
your thoughts fell as you fell
hit like hail
we hope you had no idea
hope you didn’t
make this happen
you can’t stop us
looking inside the body

your body is not your body
we will ask it our questions


Susan Millar DuMars has published five collections with Ireland’s Salmon Poetry.  The most recent, Naked: New and Selected Poems,  came out in 2019.  In 2020, Susan was awarded a bursary from the Irish Arts Council to support her as she finishes work on her second collection of short stories, Cameos.  Susan and her husband Kevin Higgins have organised the Over the Edge readings in Galway, Ireland since 2003. The six poems above are included in Naked: New and Selected Poems.











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