Poems by Susan Kelly-DeWitt

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Cherries, 1960

by Susan Kelly-DeWitt

From Canary Summer 2013

Susan lives in the Lower Sacramento Watershed, about two miles from where the Sacramento and American Rivers meet.

We waded knee-deep through
quaking grass and brome
into the orchard’s shade

to pick the dark sweet Bings
that dyed our cheeks and lips
and chins in cherry.

A man with an oilcloth
tablecloth and a sign “Bing
Cherries $1 a Bucket” gawked

after us and grinned, as if
to say, cherries—that’s all
there is to happiness.

The Buttes were to our west
and to our east, the hazy Sierras.
We did not know our father

would be buried between them
a few years later, or that the orchard
would be sold off, bulldozed.

We stuffed our mouths
recklessly, full of ripe fruit
and easy laughter,

as if there would always be
plenty more where these
came from.

Late February

by Susan Kelly-DeWitt

From Canary Fall 2016

that the flowering pear doesn’t know

(the supple sprawl of its limbs, so swollen just now
with a twitchy flock of finches) that my gardening book defines

as a short lived tree

the date and time of death, down to the last

second might be coded within

the cells of phloem.)
It flaunts

its fresh snow-bride clouds
of loose blossoming

against the thunder claps
and the gray sky.

River Trail

by Susan Kelly-DeWitt

From Canary Fall 2015

I hate to disturb the dragonflies
in their zinc-flecked flight through

the reeds through the spikelets
of deer grass

their stickpin glit darting before me, zip
and zigzag


of them, dazzle and dip, among the diatoms—
as I put one blind foot before the other,

as we all must do sometimes.


by Susan Kelly-DeWitt

From Canary Spring 2013

They came up the river like a band of slick
thieves. The water was thick with their leaping.
They climbed together the ladder of rapids,
hurled themselves and scraped their bellies.
The dead ones floated like pickerel weed. Many
fell out of the river of time, littering the rocky
banks, drawing the rats, raccoons and badgers.
They filled like windsocks with death.
We came there. We carried our eyes
and our baggage of witnessing. We carried
our awe like a causal fin. The willows crept
down to the river’s edge and hung their heads
like sad old men, trailing all their living
silver green leaves, their dusky olive leaves
the color of salmon skin. The beached ones dried
in the sun; they poked like stiff flags from the weeds
and the light passing over them seemed dis-
embodied, preternatural. Somewhere
in the worlds between this one and the dead
river of salmon ghosts, we heard a howling.
O Coho, O Kokanee, O Chinook.

Previously published as To A Small Moth, Poet’s Corner Press

Windmills at Alta Mont Pass

by Susan Kelly-DeWitt

From Canary Fall 2012

The windmills are eerily still.
They stud the hills

like tall white tombstones;
they gather like ghosts

in a churchyard.
A hundred years ago

John Muir stood at the top
of these hills, waist-deep

in poppies and lupine.
Now hawks float, endangered

hieroglyphs, above diesel
plumes feathering the sky.

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