Susanna Lang


Wind empties the sky of all but its own force, carries

a concrete dock from Misawa

five thousand miles across the ocean, encrusted with thirty species

not seen before on this side of the world:

sea stars, urchins, gooseneck barnacles, snails, seaweed, kelp,

shore crabs—but not like ours, creatures

that have survived the winds and deep water; curls and ribbons, protruding

eyes and tongues

the color of blood. We bury the lot eight feet under sand

and higher than a storm would surge.

Starved of salt water, they’ll none of them live; or

so we hope.


I sleep in one country, wake in another, dream and daydream in two languages,

lose words in both.

This year the heat comes early, frost comes late, burns the blossoms on the trees,

blights the harvest—

apples, cherries, apricots, all the stone fruit. But in the backyard of a brick two-flat

on the southwest side of the city

small green knobs hang half-hidden in the leaves, until birds

come to ravish them:

durazno in the language of the house, momo in the language of the dock,

a sweetness in the air.

Losing ground, losing home, only the blur of wings

and that fragrance.


RED ROJO written in chalk on the sidewalk, GREEN VERDE

and a goldfinch

singing in the tree above, returned from its yearly journey.

My family came to stay

but not in one place. One country, too many cities.

I found a clamshell yesterday

by the backyard fence, where it should not have been;

but there have been others.

My real country is not a place, the monk says when he is expelled

from the country where he has lived

for decades, though he cannot forget the desert and its fragile icons.

My real country is heaven.


Susanna LangSusanna Lang’s newest collection of poems, Tracing the Lines, was published in 2013 by the Brick Road Poetry Press. Her first collection, Even Now, was published in 2008 by The Backwaters Press, and a chapbook, Two by Two, was released in October 2011 from Finishing Line Press. She has published original poems and essays, and translations from the French, in such journals as Little Star, New Letters, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Green Mountains Review, The Baltimore Review, Kalliope, Southern Poetry Review, World Literature Today, Chicago Review, New Directions, and Jubilat. Book publications include translations of Words in Stone and The Origin of Language, both by Yves Bonnefoy. She lives with her husband and son in Chicago, where she teaches in the Chicago Public Schools.