Poems by Susan Powers Bourne 2018

Susan Powers BourneSUSAN POWERS BOURNE works creatively with words and images in the lovely village of Chester, Vermont in New England USA. Bits and pieces of her fledgling memoir — Settling for Essential: Defragmenting a Life — have begun to appear here at this site: http://susanpowersbourne.net. Varieties of Ms. Bourne’s other creative explorations may be found at these WordPress blogs: FoundArtWorks, FoundPoetryWorks, FreeVerseWorks, as well as the creative herstorical review blogsite WomenBornAlive.


remarkable words
thirty days through mud and rain
lotus now in bloom

Women Poets Live and Write, Ask and Wonder, Travel About and Travel On

From Northampton in the Kingdom of England in 1612 to her last home in North Andover in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1672, Anne Bradstreet writes as one of the first women in the Colonies. She dares to wonder: “Why is there no rhet’ric we women expect? Why is there no rhet’ric we expect of women? Do we not now live in a New Land where all voices may be raised and heard? Is this not the finest meaning of Freedom?”

In 1757, one hundred years after Anne’s death, Mary Darby Robinson begins her life journey in Bristol, in the Kingdom of Great Britain. Robinson’s tragic travels deliver her to an early death in 1800 in Englefield Green, Surrey. Robinson’s sad life informs her responses to Bradstreet’s questions. Thus, with a deep sigh, Robinson bewails, “Because we women dwell far too long — left to wallow in our own Caves of Woe and Solitude.”

Thirty years after Robinson lays to rest across The Pond, Emily Dickinson arises — and remains from 1830 to 1886 — within the confines of her home in Amherst, in what becomes the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Dickinson too asks, “Why do we find such Ransom in our Voices? Why do we use Language as Infinite Defense? And why, stroking the melody, do we wonder: Is this the way? What have we to show — today?”

Gertrude Stein appears in 1874 in Pittsburgh, forty-odd years after Dickinson and five hundred miles southwest in Pennsylvania. Stein becomes an expatriate in Paris, France. Before she finishes life there in 1946, she forms a response to her sister-poets. Stein’s explanation, a bit incoherent at first, boils down to this: “there are too many types of obscurity in life, language, identity: after all we know a rose is just a rose that arose.”

Hilda Doolittle also appears at first in Pennsylvania, but in Bethlehem, about three hundred miles east of Stein’s birthplace. Doolittle uses a pen name and becomes known as H.D. She also considers the questions that came before her. H.D. states, “Yes, it does demand all our visionary powers to defy fractures that attempt to define and limit us.” H.D. dies in 1961 in Zurich, Switzerland, four hundred miles southeast of Stein’s Paris.

Another American, Marianne Moore arrives just one year after H.D. in 1887, but hails from Kirkwood in Missouri, one thousand miles west of H.D.’s birthplace in Bethlehem. Moore picks up the threads of literary questions. In New York City, Moore writes till her end in 1972. With Emphatic Reticence, she demands: “What is the source of Feminine Language? Why, poetry is all nouns and verbs. Our thorns may be the best parts of us.”

Louise Bogan emerges ten years after Moore, but fourteen hundred miles northeast in Livermore Falls in Maine. Bogan too works the thorny themes of women. She describes women artists as Alchemists who travel the Landscape and take up the Quest. Two years before Moore passes, Bogan ends her poet-trek in New York City in 1970. She offers this as she leaves: “The Initial Mystery that attends any journey is how did the traveler reach her starting point in the first place? Yes, women poets, perhaps this instant is our time.”

. . . . . .

Susan Powers Bourne
Tiferet | Twenty-Nine
Prose poem mined from
Women Poets: 1650-1960
Ed. Harold Bloom, 2002.

Ode to the Cento and Mary Darby Robinson

O Adversity! O’er my head, the deaf’ning Tempest blew, and blew.
O Antique Woods! Whose branches oe’r-hang mountain’s crest.

O Beauty, Exulting Beauty! Magic phantom of the hour.
O Bright Stars! Shine on fields where trembling we stand.

O Della Crussa! Enlighten’d Patron of Sacred Lyre! Sing now!
O Despair, Terrific Fiend! Be thou Monster fell’d, condemn’d.

O Eloquence, hail! Goddess of persuasive art! Speak!
O Envy! Deep in th’ abyss where frantic horror bides

O Health! Bright-eyed maid born of the tranquil mind.
O Heaven! How I could toil for thee o’er burning plains.

O Love! I renounce thy tyrant sway. Go now, away!
O Life! What is this world? Is this thy school?

O Meditation! Sweet Child of Reason made serene!
O Melancholy! Thou Sorc’ress of the Cave profound!

O Moon! Palest Goddess of the witching hour.
O Morning! Rise oe’r fallow plains and fertile meads.

O Muse! Let me seize thy pen sublime and write.
O Myrtle! Unfading branches of verdant hue.

O Nightingale, Sweet Bird of Sorrow! Why sing?
O Oberon! Who gilds the vapours of the night?

O Reason! Vaunted Sovereign of the Mind! Rule us now.
O Reflection! Thou, whose sober precepts may control.

O Simplicity! Sweet blushing Nymph who dwells inside.
O Solitary Man! So oft seen pacing oe’r the meadows.

O Thou! Meek Orb! Stealing oe’r the dale at night.
O Time! Forgive our mournful song that stole along.

O Valour! Dearest Valour! Bestow thy gifts of Pow’r!
O Vanity! Insatiate Tyrant of the Mind — begone!
. . . . .
Found cento created with first lines mined from the
selected pieces by Mary Darby Robinson (1757-1800)

Long Live the Longlines

Longline techniques use long lines baited —
at intervals — by branch lines, labelled snoods,

or gangions: shorter lengths of line attached
to the main longline — clipped with vowels —

or swivels of syllables — and hooked at each end.
Longlines are defined by where they are placed —

in counted columns — at the surface, or the bottom.
Longlines may be tied to anchors — or left untethered,

to drift. Hundreds or thousands of baited words can hang
from a single line — which oddly target other species.

Pelagic longlines hang near or above the wet working surface.
Demerals plumb the depths — move along the ocean floors.

Some longlines include awkward, untrapped intentions
–knotted nets full of dangling or untangled phrases.

Depending on the weather, longlines may also harvest
incidental catchments of (pro)found reflection.

They can expose expanses of salty awareness that may arise,
Help us reassess interior maps — or oceanic boundaries.


As we travel on,
we enter a curve:

one of those steep
learning curves

that rise up along
old back roads —

steep, pebble-packed
inclines, ungraded —

that surprise us —
demand our skills

insist we make more
instant choices:

speed up, slow down,
brake — or simply


Exhales: Now & Then

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Escape to Exhales: sanctuaries designed
to bring balance — restore mindfulness —
without leaving the comfort of your body.

Exhale yoga will open and reinspire you.
Let our jungles heal and oceans cleanse.
Let sand touch us — feel the sun’s kisses.

Exhale: also the world’s first living bionic
chandelier which purifies the air indoors,
growing on continuously as it functions.

She leaned back then and exhaled deeply,
just as jungle-growth surrounded her and
exhaled its own misty-morning air again.

So, take care: inspire souls. Inhale before
exhales — again and again, and yet again.

the first words I spoke?
not mama or papa? really?
just this? whassat?

Long Ago and Far Away

We went to the water’s edge, far-far below the falls, where the banks gave way, where rabbits used to run, where does and fawns found berries, before the rivers froze, before feral foxes arrived, before bald eagles swooped low, before beavers built dams, before hikers made trails, before daytrippers trekked, before nature packed her bags, before surveyors measured lines, before forests and fields turned into villages and towns. Yes, way back when (we like to say) when we and the woods were one — Sacredly One — not split — torn — hacked — cracked — whacked — buried — burned — seared — scarred — scattered — chopped — or hauled off — or simply left — to rot. This is not why we used to walk to the water’s edge — far-far below — hidden by the trees — before we all felled — just so.

Ineluctable Sight

The view out my window
is my own. I own
the view out my window.

I look out with my eyes.
My eyes are continually
on the lookout.

I’m also often seen by others
whom I cannot see.
But I can only see what I see.

Fortunately, inner views
remain liminal, unlimited —
360+ around the circle.

Who knows what I might
— or might not — sight
if I lived on a square.

Susan Means Lily

Middle name Powers comes from
her maternal Vermont grandmother:

abilities to act or do something effectively
often specific: her powers of concentration.

having great influence or control over others:
like the powers of good or evil.

sixth of nine orders of heavenly angels:
Powers and Authorities.

energy or motivating forces:
under her own powers.

Last name Bourne descends from
her paternal English heritage:

small stream or brook, that flows
only seasonally or intermittently.

also bourn: a goal, limit, boundary, destination:
searching for the bourn[e] that gives life meaning.

And then there’s this lovely connection,
Lily discovered for the first time today:

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place,
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

–Lord Tennyson, 1889

Grief Swells

Grief lays into my numbed limbs
like an angry old woman lashing
out with her trusty old umbrella

flaying me one whack at a time.

Grief washes over me in undulating waves,
overcomes me with its distinctive undertow,
sucking me down under its great wet weight,

crashes me down helpless on the beachfront.

Salt rushes into my eyes — into my mouth.
Sand abrades the tenderest parts of being.
Floodtides reopen dark welts and wounds.

No escape from these persistent abrasions.

I hear the sound of each wave’s approach.
I feel the sting of salt thrown off by the sea.
I see relentless mists on wide-open oceans.

Fogs of grief engulf me when I try to stand —

but I falter and fall
again — and yet again,
for this is still grief

after all —
unrepentant grief
in us all.

The Goddess Speaks

The goddess is speaking:
can you hear her?

The goddess is speaking:
do her lips move?

The goddess is speaking:
what does she say?

The goddess is speaking:
or does she mumble?

The goddess is speaking:
does she talk to us?

The goddess is speaking:
will we remember?

The goddess is speaking:
do we even care?

The goddess is speaking:
soham, I am here.

Sleep: Translated






New England

days grow and darken
despite what the seasons say
settle into this

All One Alone

Alone on an island
in the midst of the sea;

staying afloat
between land masses.

Alone on the train
that runs underground;

alone on the plane
that flies above earth.

A lonesome dot
in a circle’s center;

two points alone
at each end of a line.

One knit stitch
cast onto a needle;

one hand-tied knot
at the very end.

One pink cloud
in an open blue sky;

one round of thunder
before rain falls.

One river’s mouth as
it reaches a sea;

one mountain source
where it begins.

One for one and one:
we all make our

ways — alone.

after Carly Simon’s song

We never know
about days to come,
if we’re real now

or just some
past anticipation
appearing —

makin’ us wait —
with time unfettered
in us too late.

Tomorrow we
may not remember
our own nature.

So step carefully —
sink only into this now
’cause here we are

singin’ in
old days.
the good

Found List Poem of Acronyms: What’s a WORD?

Women’s Organization of Rural Development
Welsh Office of Research and Development

Web Outreach Redesign and Development
Welcome Osteological Research Database

Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation Division
Web Outreach Redesign Development

Water Oriented Recreational District
Washington Organization of Reading

Western Ontario Regimental Depot
Wind Oriented Rocket Deployment

Wiry Object Recognition Data
Work Order Record Details

Working on Real Designs
Way of Refreshing Daily

In the beginning
was the WORD.


I flew ungainly like a swan once
over dirt roads in Montana

able to mimic the honking sound
but unable to lift off in grace.

I had befriended swans back east
beside my grandfather’s river

where I was I able to reach out to
touch beauty’s golden beaks.

In the first grade, I crafted a swan
and her cygnets out of clay —

my grandmother displayed these
on her dark-wood desk.

Once I saw dozens of swans rising
out of Three Mile Island

flying in unforgettable formations
carrying away radiation.

Swans often fly at 10,000 feet high
tangled up in jet engines.

Once a dead swan washed up on
our Thanksgiving Day shore.

Neighbors carried it off home —
cooked it for their feast.

Some have no sense of decency
— or swan-like decorum.

Still, swans symbolize purity
in a variety of cultures.

So, we fly on — trumpeting —
calling for recognition.

Along Carpeted Hallways

I searched for my down coat:
full-length, no buttons, deep
sea-green — shimmering silk.

I moved on Persian carpets then Tibetan,
tatami, then Turkish, New England hand-
hooked rugs — all worn — but serviceable.

Families from each culture lived along the
edges of each different rug. They all tried to
help me as they could, but no one had seen

hide nor hair of any
deep sea-grass green
full-length, down-filled
coat — with no buttons.

Finally, someone offered
a short gull-green jacket
to ward off the cold as
I made my way home.

Now — awake —
I will seek and
find my lovely
long silky coat

and I will find
all those rugs.


As April snow swirls
some of us fall — again

not from high up in the sky
but far down into earth

into unseen places of
unseasonable depression

of spirits and bodies —
wildly overdue for light

waiting for new breaths
of fresher, kinder airs

the ones that soothe us,
reassure our bones.

At moments like this,
it feels there is no

beginning, middle, or
end to our woes —

neighbors hibernate,
walk on brittle ice

as we are buried in
winter hats and coats.

Vermont seasons demand
we embody dispassion

yet we long for one more
warm body beside us

each and every
darkest night

till all is light.

Au Contraire

On the other
side of

Set against,
contrary in nature
or character.

The reverse
word, thought
or thing.

At another
side of a line
or space.

Directly across
or facing
the other way.

Placement of
flowers or leaves
on stems.

A simple
learning game
for children.

Two numbers
taken together to
equal zero.

Ends & beginnings
at odds.

Shared Vacancies

Purple bodies stare at vacant clouds
unspoiled by certain recent collapses.

Two flare-ups reinfuse cloud forms
we thought we’d reframed before.

Such uncovered celestial vacancies
tease minds — yet ease visions.

No one knows exactly what goes on
in the clouds, or here on earth.

We’re only small conjectures as we
flare and fade like solar winds.

Simple Present

In third grade
at Stone School in
Miss Driscoll’s class
in Massachusetts,
we had daily practice
Reading Circles —
arranged by levels
of abilities in
word recognition,
cadence, and clarity
of pronunciation.

(1950’s old school)

I was top reader
in the best group
but one Tuesday
I stumbled — and
was humbled —
as I came upon
a word I’d never,
ever seen before.
I stared and stared.
Thought I should
know it, but still
couldn’t figure out

(for the life of me)

how to say the word
— or how it sounded
— or what it meant.
Utterly embarrassed
and befuddled by my
own unusual pause,
it dawned on me —
in that silent moment:
this must be how
other kids feel when
they look at a page,
see little black marks

(all jumbled together)

each one intended to
have meaning. HAVE!
That was the word
that tripped me up,
stumped my mind
for some unknown
reason that lone day.
A simple, common,
often-used word —
no long sounding a.
So, have a moment
of simple presence.

(Ave, ave — have!)

Keeping Things

why do we think we
are keeping things


when things acculumate,
they start keeping us



PEACE sits before me
standing on the windowsill
carved in red letters.

This PEACE is flanked by
two delicately hand-carved
stone Kuan Yin statues.

Yet real peace is not
crafted out of wood or stone
but of heart-substance.


undeterred hours
fill with sixty new minutes
each and every day