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Sample Poems by Susan Oringel

Chopped Chicken Livers

The grinder was sculpted yellow metal with a silver mouth
and black rubber feet that stuck to the counter.
Mom fried up the livers and onions in the frying pan with
chicken fat that spat and she boiled eggs in her mother’s
little gray saucepan. The bloody livers pooled into muddy lumps
and the onions became gilded with ridges of brown and black.
Grinding was my favorite part: eggs, onions, and liver
would emerge from the holes, yellow, white, and brown
worms, which Mom would mash with garlic, mayonnaise, salt.
I liked to crank the grinder and make the worms wiggle out:
worms you could eat! Disgusting! Delicious.

Olive Juice

I love alliteration’s tricky licks and the ahs
of assonance–time to relax–delicious
fricatives and glottal stops. The blunt
flat hammers of stab and shit!
Those Anglo-Saxons really knew their,
er, stuff, and the polysyllabic latinates
aren’t too shabby. But rhyme
that chimes, Ay, ay, ay, some
subtlety, puhleez! And it
amuses me how love and loathe
are close, in sound, anyway,
how “olive juice” said to someone across
a room sounds like, “I love you.”
Try it. And no matter how nicely someone
says my full first name, it always
sounds like Mother scolding.

My Miloz Dream

...how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors, and
invisible guests come in and out at will —Czeslaw Milosz

She left—the former owner—but left
junk cars and lumber on the lawn,
ballgowns and dishes dispersed
and the woodstove with incense burning.

The doors swung open to all her friends—
they didn’t need keys
and came to chat about the good old days.

She even left a daughter, my old self,
a surly girl who whined each time I tried
to make it my own home. And I whined back,
I bought this place, but everyone
told me gravely, I was wrong.

A country house on a hill, acreage,
intended escape, but this was a way station
for neighbors; a tiny urban ghetto nestled close,
armies of boys wheeled around on bikes,
men in fatigues with guns darted through streets:
shouts, sounds of breaking glass.

Safe, safe, I muttered, shooing neighbors out.
I rammed an old oak table against the kitchen door,
piled up wooden chairs. Then ran and shoved the sofa
behind the front, a bureau stuffed with keepsakes
in front of that. By sunset I’d hammered shut
all the windows, when I heard the knock.

An elderly male voice, accented and gentle,
asked me to let him in. I stood transfixed;
he found the one door I’d forgotten. Entered
in a long gray coat, kissed my forehead, and said,
Yes, it’s difficult, those guests—Still, it’s your house.

Mother Love

We never baked Christmas cookies but once:
my mother grabbed the rolling pin we’d thumped
on her pink Formica counter dotted with golden
stars, her Nice Clean Kitchen! Flour and butter stuck
in sticky dunes, the rainbow sugars, colored dust
swirling, her words like punctuating fists,
this time, words only. The cookies burned, of course,
the snowmen, bells, and sad, singed hearts.

But years later, the first night I babysat
for the backyard neighbors’ kids, was it a warm spring night?
I opened the door—first sin—the dog sprang out
and I panicked, called my mother and she showed up
in housecoat and curlers, she, mortally afraid
of dogs or anything that walked on fours,
she rounded up that big gray barking poodle
in the dark, who knows how?
And she was shaking.