Monday, July 19, 2021

Leaving Behind Beauty



Leaving Behind Beauty

by Suzanne DeWitt Hall


I don’t know which creature

snail or slug

leaves behind a glittering sign

of midnight motion

but there it was;

a lacy map

of iridescent trails

which had not been the day before.

 

Disdained thumbless things

gliding on a magic carpet

of their own pulsing creation

slick and silent

up trees and over fences

intent on simply being

and leaving behind

beauty.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The Year of the Cicada


Oddly enough, this is not my first poem about cicadas.

The Year of the Cicada

by Suzanne DeWitt Hall

July 7, 2021

 

 

I’ve heard the cicadas will be many this year

not heard the way we hear

the waxing, waning waves of sound

pulsing from their tymbals

to fill the dusk.

Not that,

but heard through the pulse of data

across wires and air

bearing news from one being to the next

in cicada-like proclamation:

“Look at me! Judge me worthy! I am here!”

 

I’ve heard their presence has been a plague

encouraging exodus.

They’ve not yet begun to thrum

where we live, also waiting

buried in the earth

hungering to be born

to stretch and groan

escaping the confines of this present exoskeleton

clawing into tender freedom

flying away

to fill the world with the pulse of our own song

and leaving the dead shell

of these former selves

behind.

Friday, July 2, 2021

 



I moved my laptop to another room, and there's a mirror behind the desk which means I get to watch the skin on my throat transform into crepe in real time.

I don't hate it. Hopefully my spirit is softening simultaneously.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Look Toward the Light



Our kitchen contains a narrow rolling island made from an antique console table my beloved got from the church where we met over a decade ago. It's looking rough after all its years, but it's useful for chopping veggies, stirring batters, and shucking hard-boiled eggs, which was my pre-breakfast task this morning. In most kitchens, you stand between the countertop and the island, facing in toward the room, but I often work on the opposite side, because there's a window over the sink, and its light is helpful for my aging eyes. 

I've been co-existing with depression over many months of pandemic, and have learned that it's a thing which behaves like the tide. Sometimes it hangs back and you have space to putter around and do what needs to be done. Other times it washes in deep and with seemingly serious intent, halting motion and leaving you helpless to do much more than wait it out. Today was one of the crashing-wave times. My spirit was heavy and my mind discouraged, overwhelmed with worries and the mountain of things I'm not doing a good job of getting done. 

The eggs needed shelling, and my beloved waited for me so we could strategize about our work for the week. It was a rainy morning, and I moved to the far side of the island to face the watery light. 

It reminded me of a night long ago, when I wound my way through the woods toward the outhouse at my ex-husband's family cottage. The privy was set a fair distance away from the central compound, and the walk curved around and down, out of sight and away from the light of the buildings. My flashlight's beam illuminated the pine-needle-strewn path but little else. There was nothing to fear in that quiet space of looming trees. No people for miles. Bears bedded down elsewhere and uninterested in my proximity. Squirrels and chipmunks startling in their scurry but welcome company. But it was eerie, walking toward the increasing darkness. Leaving the light behind.

It was always a relief to head back afterward, knowing that in another few steps the light from the big cottage would appear around a final bend. 

What a difference the disposition of light makes to our feelings of safety and comfort. Even though I could be standing in exactly the same place, when I faced the darkness there was fear and subtle dread. When I faced the beckoning light there was expectation and hope. The actual safety of the space was exactly the same. I was no farther or closer to danger, no more or less content with the mess that was my marriage, and my being was the same facing either direction other than the state of my bladder.

But the light made all the difference.

I felt that same sense of lifting this morning, when I shifted from facing into our rain-dim kitchen and instead turned toward the window. I felt more light as I watched my beloved's face assessing my sadness a few minutes later, and plotting how to help.

We can handle a lot of darkness in our lives as long as there are sources of light to turn to. I hope you are able to both seek light, and be it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Sleeper, Awake is almost here!

 


All my devotionals have involved deconstructing aspects of the faith I'd been taught or absorbed over the years. The latest is titled Sleeper, Awake, and it takes on the concept of unlearning itself. 

The book will be available at the end of the month!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Unnatural Companions

 


Unnatural Companions


The dogs and I startled

a flock of mourning doves

from the cover of bare branches.

They flew off in pairs

clucking twirtles of disruption

and fluttered to the tree

lying beyond our fence.

Its roots rise in the frozen air

but the boughs still offer shelter

for startled doves

and feral cats

as we all seek comfort

and wait together

for the coming of spring.


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Hope on a Windowsill


Hope on a Windowsill


We cower inside

wondering if it's possible

to breathe deep again

to hug and laugh

to eat and serve

to be proud of who we are

but still, I place

the stalk-end of celery

in a bit of water

on the windowsill

shaving the bottom

opening it's vascular system

to the potential quenching

of an unending thirst

and still, new shoots push up

toward the light

because the light calls to it

calls to us

offers hope

that even if the darkness reigns

for moments or years

the light is

the light calls

the light wins.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Upon ripening


Sometimes we get damaged during the process of our ripening. But that doesn't make us any less delicious.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Sex With God launches!



It's here! Sex With God is now available through all major retailers and independent booksellers. Or you can get signed copies from the author. Just send an email to sdewitthall@gmail.com for details.

The Where True Love Is website has more information about the book, and you can read a bit about launch timing here.

Now go check it out!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Jamie the Germ Slayer coloring sheets

I created the coloring and activity sheets below for people who need resources to keep kids busy during isolation. They are based on Dan Hayes' wonderful illustrations which are featured in my book titled Jamie the Germ Slayer. Hope they are helpful!































Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Jamie the Germ Slayer now available!


Jamie the Germ Slayer in a place called Little While is now available!

Here's the description:

Jamie doesn't like the changes taking place. Worried parents, school at home, and not seeing the Nanas is so alien that it seems almost like a different world. Mama weaves a story about a place called Little While, where Jamie becomes a germ-fighting super hero.

Jamie the Germ Slayer in a Place Called Little While helps kids process their new reality, and offers reminders about keeping safe and fighting the pandemic, together.


Thursday, April 30, 2020

Coming Soon: Sex With God

My latest devotional is approaching lift off! 

This book is the companion of A Theology of Desire, so if you haven't gotten a copy of that one yet, you should definitely check it out.

On Orgasm


I'm editing a devotional titled Sex With God, and since beginning work on it, my Dolce has requested that I write a poem about orgasm. I finally did it, as a birthday gift.

And now I offer it to you, as well.

On Orgasm


My beloved asked
for a poem about orgasm
perhaps thinking my words
would summon memories
of fireworks exploding
or waves lapping shores
or hurricane forces, unleashed
but I think what is needed
is a sonnet to their softness
curving into my back
warm skin praying for me
as I slip into sleep.

Orgasm pulls us
away from our minds
into single points of being
incapable of thought
escaping
for a moment
every troubling thing
until awareness ebbs back
returning us
to where we began.

We need escape.
But what we need even more
is a beloved, like mine
curving warm against our backs
pouring their love
into our souls.

Jamie the Germ Slayer in a place called Little While


I've had a great distraction over the past week and a half. My Dolce discovered a contest offered by Emory University's Global Health Institute for developing a children's ebook related to COVID-19. (Click here to read more about our entry.) With the help of the clever and talented Dan Hayes, we created this book in about 9 days! The winner will be announced May 8, after which we'll be making the book available to the public. Stay tuned!

Friday, February 7, 2020

We Are Not Sisters



We drove from Missouri to Florida this past week, which required multiple stops in multiple states. This poem is a reflection on one of those stops.

We Are Not Sisters

We stopped for gas
on a winding Kentucky two-lane
beneath a canopy of Spanish moss
where winter-gray kudzu
awaited spring
to resume its consuming
of barns and buildings
trees and tension lines
anything vertical
a target for destruction.

Should we pretend we are sisters?
The vertical trajectory of our love
a threat
to the insidious increase of demands
about genitals
skin color
faith or lack of it
country of origin.

The gray-haired gas keep’s dialect
scared me;
its twang shocking
only a few hours from home.
He owned the place
and waited, bored
to assess those who entered.

Should we pretend we are sisters?

A young attendant also stood waiting
tongs ready to grasp
hotdogs and breakfast sandwiches
differently bored
nervous
straight black hair shining
brown skin surprising
in the vast whiteness.
So maybe it was silly
to ask the question:

Should we pretend we are sisters?

The women’s restroom
could service two
as long as you were close:
mother and toddler
aunt and niece
sisters.
There were no stalls
two toilets perched
in vulnerable nakedness
on the pissy expanse of tile.

Should we pretend we are sisters?

Twin silver bullets were pulled up next door
gleaming beneath the draping moss 
horses hidden inside
grateful like us
for the reprieve from the road
but like us questioning
the safety of the stop
sniffing the air
and wondering.

Should we pretend we are sisters?

I small talked the gas keep
assessing the likeliness of his stance
on two women who were not sisters
and told him about the roadside rodeo
taking place next door.
“That’s my lot!” he said
annoyed that they’d encamped
without permission
then stomped off to check out the action.

Young people footworked
around the cracked pavement
spinning ropes above their cowboy hats
tossing them toward
a horned creature
made of aluminum
and blue fabric.
Capturing the thing with a swish
and a tug
while an older man tossed instructions.

“I guess they ain’t hurtin nothin.”
the gas keep said
hotdog youth watching
silent
leery
relieved.
I went outside
and filled the tank.
eager to drive away
from a place where we had to wonder:

Should we pretend we are sisters?

A place where
white haired white men
issued rules
about how to best capture life
regulate truth
order the world
keep the universe from shaking apart
at threats like my wife and I
stopping to pee
and asking:

Should we pretend we are sisters?

Friday, December 20, 2019

Latest devotional launched: A Theology of Desire


My latest devotional has been a long time coming. I began writing a blog by this title over a decade ago, and it's finally been transformed into a book.

If you're looking for a resource to help explore the deepest hungers of your heart, this book will help you do it.

Over the next few days I'll share some places you can read excerpts online. But in the meantime, isn't the cover image gorgeous?

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Flashback post: The reality of a grilled cheese sandwich



I wrote this a few years ago, but it was shared today on the Cookbook Love Facebook page. The topic aligns with a recent post by Jessica Faust (Bookends Literary Agency) about the need to properly attend to details in writing, so I thought I'd post it again.
____________________________________________

I've got a beef this morning. A writing beef.

I'm reading a book, the last in a pile of three that I began and then threw to the side. I may have to ditch this one as well if it doesn't cut it out.

This time it's a problem with details. The author seems to just make things up without bothering to see if they actually make sense. One of the characters is a baker, and so there are frequent references to baking processes. But the author isn't particularly concerned if they are correct. Here are a few examples.

In one case, the baker can't be interrupted because she is kneading. A few minutes later she comes out saying that she finished the tarts.

PROBLEM: There is no kneading required when making tarts. They use pastry crust.

Later on, an assistant complains that there is something wrong with the buttercream frosting she made. The baker tastes it and proclaims that the egg whites were bad.

PROBLEM: There are no egg whites in buttercream. Or yellows for that matter.

Another detail violation happens in a bathtub. The protagonist is soaking and enjoying a plastic water tumbler of Chardonnay while musing about her terrible life, and then describes a loofah getting snagged on her leg stubble.

PROBLEM: Stubble wouldn't snag.

Perhaps if you had very course, very curly, very long leg hair there might be a Velcro effect. But stubble? Stubble sticks straight out. It's not snaggish. It won't run a pair of pantyhose let alone slow down a sponge.

Why, why, why, oh why?

Are cooking references really such a selling point that it doesn't matter if they make sense? Is there such a rush to go to press that editors don't pay attention to what they are reading? Was this story the second piece in a two-book deal with a very short deadline?

I'm trying to figure it out, hopefully so I can learn by negative example. Perhaps this is similar to what artists try to teach; to draw what we actually see rather than what we think we see. This author is writing what she thinks leg loofahing is about, without actually getting in the tub and testing it. Or even imagining through recollection. It's like the story is running merrily along and she captures it, thinking leg hair might be amusing, so down it goes and in it remains.

On the plus side, I guess I have learned something. While writing details, I need to really be in the scene. If I describe making a grilled cheese sandwich I need to actually walk through the process, at least mentally. The butter has to be spread. The cheese has to be unwrapped. I'll need to remember how the toasty bread lifts up like butterfly wings and the melting orange oozes over the edges if I cut it too soon and too hot.

I've learned that I need to really live the darned sandwich experience rather than assume I know what it is and say something nonsensical.

I guess I won't throw the book across the room. I'll continue reading, and see what else I can glean.

And now, I'm ready for lunch.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Shroud is Ready


I'm continuing to process my grief through poetry. Here's this week's entry.

The Shroud is Ready
by Suzanne DeWitt Hall
10/23/19


The clacking bones called us
“That Bunch”
when we audaciously planted
an orgy of produce
then invaded their sacred space
to feed the hungry
doing things ways
they hadn’t been done
and making the bones very
very
uncomfortable.

That Bunch helped our pastor pack
his office this week
filling boxes with books
family photos
worn collars
a virgin baptismal stole
a diploma from Princeton
note-scrawled legal pads chronicling his call
to the sepulcher which came to reject it.

Some of the bones clacked through while we packed
making sure he’d be out by the deadline
chattering a demand
that keys be returned
that locks be changed
in case That Bunch decided to stage
a final feast
without permission.

We finished loading boxes
into vehicles
and stopped in the sanctuary
which had been draped
to protect it from debris
when roofers banged new shingles
into place
everything shrouded
as if someone had died
their house prepared
for vacancy.

A fitting place
for bones to molder
and ghosts to multiply
as the living are borne away
by the winds of grace
to continue feeding a world
desperate for love.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Rictus Victory

Old black and white line drawing of Dancing skeletons, called 'Dance of Death'

Rictus Victory
by Suzanne DeWitt Hall

Our church voted yesterday
to accept the resignation
of its young pastor
a gay firebrand
irritant bringer of “others”
inadequately obsequious
to the spirits of those
who’d come before.

The back pews clapped
When the vote announced
it was finished.
Skeletal hands clacking
smiles stretching wide
in rictus victory.

His time in that stone sepulcher is over
and he is gone
as are we; the queer couple
the musician dad
the single black mother and her three kids
the Moms Demand Action rep
the planter of a community garden
the tireless doer of deeds who kept the place running
the “others.”

The bones in the back pews clapped
as we wept for lost hope
for the broken world
for the pastor
for ourselves.

The bones clapped
for next Sunday
when they will hobble in
to find us gone
and they will dance
their skeletal dances
unaware
that the skin of their hands
is a mirage.

Happy to be alone
to chatter and clatter
their death dance
as the dust gathers
and the doors clang shut
leaving them to join the ghosts
who wait
and shriek
that they have won.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Dead Cicada Season

Cicada against black background. Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Dead Cicada Season
by Suzanne DeWitt Hall
9/24/19

It’s dead cicada season
the time when winged corpses
litter the ground
still enfleshed
as if ready
to fly and serve
the function for which they were created
to sing in the twilight
battling darkness
to buzz and hum
with life
a calling
reminder
that summer has ended
and winter approaches
when growth and hope
are buried
frozen
waiting
for spring.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Make Church Great Again

Tattered white tennis shoe with soul coming off on red-clay dirt.

Make Church Great Again
by Suzanne DeWitt Hall

A voice we heard
at church, a month ago
reported scandal:
the pastor only had time
for the poor
the black
the gay.
A white woman
with white hair
spoke her white truth
with indignation
and sorrow.
The church she knew had changed;
its glorious past
no longer a shining present.
She wanted back
her club of privilege
that place where respect was properly assigned.

Her voice became a chorus
men spitting their rage
telling decades-old stories
of heroic contribution
of fallen places of honor.
The crowd screamed their demand;
the head of the offending pastor
a return to the attention they deserved.
Clamoring to make church great again
white again
straight again
theirs again.

I heard a different voice
last night
while working in the church kitchen
finalizing a meal we would serve for free
to struggling families
to the homeless
to the lonely
to the addicted.

My wife and I began this feeding
our queer audacity recognizing
that hunger comes in many forms
including the congregation’s need to serve.
But few participate.
The souls who come to be fed
are fuel for their rage.
They weren’t there when the voice spoke last night.

“What size do you wear?” he said.
A young black man;
our guest, Leland,
from the assisted living facility across the street.
“What size do you wear?”

He spoke to a ginger-haired guy
who sleeps beneath the stars .
and has no address
no phone
no way for possible employers to reach him.
who said he hates when it rains
because of his shoes
walked into tatters
the souls nearly disconnected.

“What size do you wear?”
Leland asked,
and hearing the answer
took off his shoes
gleaming white and stylish
and gave them to him
then walked barefoot
across the street
to get an older pair for himself.

The young man left later
belly full of home-cooked food
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in hand
shining new shoes on his feet
to walk miles in the dark
so he could sleep behind Walmart.

This is what church looks like.
Not the screaming white faces
demanding their due
because queer women
and black men
and a gay pastor
make them yearn for the days
when they didn’t feel uncomfortable.