The leaves are trembling on their long, thin chains
Between the banyan tree and the palms.
How I seemed to just break off and spiral
Away, becoming like a planet
Unto myself, without ever meaning to—
Except they say you do, except I don’t
Believe them. I stand alone to smoke
Beneath the blue moon of Miami,
Face to face with an opossum as she hangs
From her prehensile tail, except they say
You cannot hang that way. You must be wedged
Into the palm with your claws. You must be young
Or babies could fall out of your pouch.
You appear every night, Milady,
Like a nagging thought I try to escape,
Eyeing me with black eyes, bottomless
In that weirdly triangular white face.
First named by a tribe of Algonquian,
You surely are a messenger of starry
Night, of the blue moon, of him who will not
Come, again. Though the air has taken on
A lavender hue and there is water
Between us, much water. You stare
And I stare back. Tell me what you know
Of endurance, of reversal, of the fun
In turning upside down, while the moss greys,
While it lengthens, without noise, while it breathes,
While it chokes off the tunnels going backward.
They told us the green of Vietnam
Was so bright, it made your eyes hurt. They stood
In the doorway of the pizza parlor
In heavy boots, heads shaved, stomping for warmth,
These boys, our boys, shivering through their winter leave
As they told us appalling stories,
Giggling, darting glances at each other.
I can’t say we believed them. Who
Were these boys, gone not long, but so
Alien, they could have come from Mars?
They were bored with us now.
A friend’s brother came home spooky,
Spent every night shooting fireworks
Over the skies of Lake Calhoun
Until he re-enlisted, dying over there
In the bright green jungle, electric
As the morning my father gave up the ghost
Of a life gone wrong, deep in the frigid
Winter of my first year at college,
During the Tet Offensive, of all things.
Nothing was green then, not my tears, not one thing.
Upon returning home, one of them shot to death a family of five.
Susan Yuzna has taught at many colleges and universities. She holds a BA in English from the University of Iowa and a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana, where she was the Richard Hugo Memorial Poetry Scholar. Her first book, Her Slender Dress, won both the Akron Poetry Prize and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. She has held a Bush Artist Fellowship, a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, and has been a resident at several artist colonies, including Yaddo, MacDowell, Djerassi, and U Cross. She published a chapbook, Burning the Fake Woman, from GreenTower Press and a second book, Pale Bird, Spouting Fire, from the University of Akron Press, as well as publishing poems in numerous magazines. She lives in Minneapolis.