Author Archives: Susan Wismer

About Susan Wismer

Susan Wismer (she/her) is grateful to live on Treaty 18 territory at the southern shore of Georgian Bay in Ontario with two human partners and one very large dog. Recent work has been published in Orbis International Literary Journal, Juniper Poetry, the Syracuse Cultural Worker’s Women Artists Agenda 2021, Understorey Magazine and Room Magazine.

Spontaneous Combustion

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Spontaneous Combustion

Half-naked above me in autumn
the flowering crab is laden with hard little apples
the bite that I take leaves a bitter taste
in my throat, the birds will ignore them
all winter long until repeated frosts
soften them and
all else is gone

from far away
the not quite sound of her voice
ghosts my ears, colours fade, a familiar scent rises
worn soft with years, wind-dried cotton, the red quilt
she made for my bed, crabapple shades patchworked
red, pink, green, soft brown, off-white
thinned comfort for my questing

my chilled fingers plunge
bare garden hands deep in fresh shards
bright newcut wood chips piled at the roots
of the crabapple tree, touch warmth
unexpected, feel smoulder, find smoke
stinging the air, burning tears
in my eyes

Water, air, matter. Flesh, bone, breath, blood.
How they can ignite. Every conversation with my mother
has fire in its heart.

photo of a pik and green quilt hanging in a tree

Anvil Quilt by Leijsa Squires















Listen to Susan Wismer read “Spontaneous Combustion.”


Unschooled: Guelph, March 23

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Unschooled: Guelph, March 23

The school, emptied
goes silently blind, each window dark
under clouds, an unseeing eye
chilled grey

in the yard, hard brown bricks
hold fast
to the bolts
of a basketball hoop

no bells ring, no children cascade
out the doors, noisy, half-fledged
running to fly, flapping
boots coats hats mitts

one boy, unschooled, his basketball’s
tenor bounce sings hollow
echoes off tarmac, rim,
silent brick wall

Venice, Piazzale Roma: no tourists, no boats
By the unshadowed waters of a pandemic canal
one duck builds her nest, warms her clutch
awaits undisturbed

Spring’s quiet return.

1. As of March 23, 2020, although school playgrounds in Guelph Ontario were not yet officially closed, very few children were leaving their homes.
2. `Nature is taking back Venice’: wildlife returns to tourist-free city’, The Guardian, International Edition, March 20, 2020

(Original link with readers’ comments here.)

Two Poems

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All the Words for Blue

                                                                   One astronaut returned
the moon   and   the unknown                                        wanting
      one small safe place in space
         Earth        perfect                                       oceans
                   for human living

Earth will survive, the astronauts say. 
                                                                   to tell us
It’s us. We are
flimsy, fragile, perhaps too soon
                           gone                                   every word
                       from this                                 for
                    our only home.
                                                             all  the    words   for   blue.

Textile art by Rachel Ryan showing trees surrounded by blue.

Morning Moon by Rachel Ryan (fabric collage)

At the Tree Zoo, Mesachie Lake, British Columbia

Big numbers                spray painted             eye level blue
                       across their horned bark
tall trees

I lean
all my weight        slight        close to earth

a vast living wall          long drips fall slow
                              in      my mouth        open      raised

green cloud of needle and branch

Grow feathers        spread wings           be eagle
             see mountains        snow in high reaches
                      these giant firs        numbered
                                   tree zoo 

It is late, I am tired, the motel bed will do. Under car wheels,
the road whines slick, nearly frozen. The radio, CBC.
“Can you use different words?” asks the host. Snow slides in clots
down the windshield, car fan on defrost set high, wiper blades
can’t do enough. 

The guest is a lawyer,  a woman,  Indigenous
                  even-voiced, firm, implacable         

in my ears, in the storm, she repeats

Apocalypse           Water              Hypoxia               Trees.