Susanna Mayer

Before Becoming


Before, I was a falcon
coughing up bones
at the feet of God
who rewarded me
by telling me the names
of things – the name
for the first scream
after birth, for the smoky
scent of need, for the heat
given off by blood.
I think I had to jump
to get here, and meant
to hold hard
to a branch and stare
down the length
of the shadow I cast, but
I dropped head first,
and when I could
stand, found I no longer
had wings or talons,
and needed the bones
I’d thought I could
sell for words.




On the Nature of the Seraphim, Or Three Views
on Burning

                     After Aquinas


I. Motion

Just try to hold a body
still in time. Thrust
your naked hand
into a flame to quell
its wavering,
its reaching up.
One pair of wings,
even in rest, trembles
toward flight.

II. Heat

Not only in the thick
smell of smoke
that exhales from
all six wings,
but in the sharp, blood-
and-fennel scent
of fervor.
Two wings wrap and cross
to clothe the thighs
and groin, obscure
the whole question
of sex.

III. Clarity

Two wings cover the eyes,
and for that, thank any god
that crafted eyes
from fire so they’d retain
their inextinguishable
light, and only too late
realized the terror
of seeing.
The last wings
are a lover’s turning
away in a moment
of naked truth, an act
of compassion, to avert
the eyes from that
essential need which,
once perceived,
can never be unseen.



Poet’s Bio: Susanna Mayer is currently working towards an MFA in poetry at Texas State University, and she work as a proofreader for the Texas Legislative Council in Austin, TX.

Artwork: Explosiones, acrylic, plastic, and stucco on canvas, 12″x19″ by Vivian Calderón Bogoslavsky.

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