Where does inspiration lie? Everywhere!

This is my attempt to pounce on and then shape the words I breathe.

Please join me with your comments and make this a dialogue . . . and visit Susan's Poetry!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Foreign Land

After lumbar fusion surgery and 4 weeks in a rehab center, I happily returned home to my 2nd floor apartment, feeling ready for everything, not expecting to find myself exploring a foreign land. Physical therapy had been pretty thorough, but couldn't predict every possibility.  I've had a few accidents, yet LOVE being independent--or almost--again.  Some thoughts from Day 2:

Home again, she slides under ceiling fans
to sleep off the travails of rehab-inns—
weak coffees, un-opened windows and air-
conditioning. Treading carefully, she
navigates naked wooden floors, applies
every tip her physical therapists
predicted she'd need not to bend, lift
and twist and she succeeds unless surprised:

Spills, for example. She makes herself Real
Coffee. Ah-ah-ahh! She sets her cup on
a coaster while thinking of her new walker
as parallel bars for leg strengthening
and instantly her coveted drink splats
the floor instead of her throat from dragging
her fingers absentmindedly across
cup top. Shocked still, she invents solutions:

Throws down towels and uses her Reacher
to spread them wide enough to stand upon.
Every minute needs mind control, every
move needs her attention. She drops a pill—
her last Percocet—neither her toes nor
her broom yields it up, and, scared, she holds still
till she decides to sprawl face up in bed
and count breaths until they calm her body:

Pain throbs but quieter so she can hear
herself create steps to solve this surprise.
Surprise! Re-mapping her body evolves
her mind to handle the unexpected
and she begins to trust she can do it,
live alone universe in universe,
if she's vigilant and able to rest
when alertness drains her resources. Peace.


Friday, August 21, 2015

My Spine Surgery Poems from Manor Care at Mercy Fitz

Copyright © 2015  S.L.Chast

31 JULY 2015

Eighteen staples
finish the hand work
fusing her lumber spine

Eighteen staples
stand out stark now just
waiting for their time

Eighteen staples
remain between her
and Godly Cleanliness

Eighteen staples
once removed will make
an eighteen candle day.

When day's birth
includes long hot showers
and renews youth along the way.

05 AUGUST 2015

My vantage from the rehab center sets
me wondering what if, magically,
total contents of the bottom two shelves
of my bookcases vanished—POOF!—into
thin air.  Or thick air. Or any fine air.
What if?  How soon would I miss an item?

So tempted to hire someone to box, label
and move said items! I live without them
now—I have for weeks and will for weeks more.
What will go?  Do I really know?  Two tall
bottom shelves of art, architecture and
photography books, Far Eastern lesson

plans, Mexican lotteria.  Taller
books in theatre design.  Unable to
toss tomes of obscure feminist theory
and body politics.  But when did I
last look at them?   And when will I again?
What if everything shelved disappeared?

My vantage from the rehab center sets
me wondering—what if I disappeared?
Totally vanished—POOF!—into thin air?
Or thick air? Or any fine air?  Or book!
On the bottom shelves among the tall arts.
How soon before they notice me? Or look?

14 AUGUST 2015

Days billow by & I cannot catch them
I wish for a butterfly net
large enough and fine enough 
to capture them
at least in words. 
O!  There goes another!
So much lost: glancing eye & gestures
moments of love, sin, pain & surprise
I want to never forget

But days billow by & I cannot catch them
Trying, I fall behind this moment
dizzy & dangling from effort
until I must sit still instead
at this outdoor cafĂ© 
to catch only my breath
& to watch over a cup of coffee
deliciously dark & steaming
Such satisfaction!

I may jot a note on a napkin
If I can take my eyes off the day
If I can stay still long enough
Within the billowing day
To get my bearings. 
What a day!  
& then another!
I stand to set my course gladly
through day by billowing day.

16 AUGUST 2015

Placing the hands to push off
then, standing,
Shift just so
Chair to walker to cane

Metaphors and similes
Like learning to drive stick shift
(though I can’t for this while)
Riding a bicycle, never forgetting
when I hear my true name called
and love the chance
that brought me 
to this retreat
and meeting myself

Stand, Balance, Place Hands, Shift
(Waking Post-Op, I cried out
Why can’t I walk?)
Each step is faith
In the body’s architecture
And the movement of the spirit
What if I could not relearn walking?
Many don’t walk yet thrive
Many could walk but don’t

I decide to walk
when I can
And Trust
To use the resurrection
Literally and figuratively
To stand inside the prayer
That dwells inside of me
That compels me to wake
to remember
to resurrect what
I used to know a little bit
And to be there more often.

17 AUGUST 2015

(for Gretchen)

Despite her effort, walking startled her
Into nausea and then into tears.

In miracles, they say, faith is the cure
And so surely she had touched holy space.

As had the surgeon’s hands and the nurture
Of food and drugs and nurses and helpers.

She forgot the time it took to study
Each first step; she forgot she could have stopped

Anywhere.   Moving forward, she balanced
Her legs between weight, feet and intention. 

Listening to her earthly teacher and
in tune with the one within, she faced fear

And walked through it onto the path that was
There always, waiting for her to reach it.

18 AUGUST 2015

You ask about the cafeteria
food and how the nurses neglected me,
but I tell you about not having to
figure out food and cooking and cleaning
and talk about the smiles of the people
who serve each day the same so the world turns.

I’ll never catch up with my own garden
never mind criticize the losses here.
The pepper and tomato plants I bought
at Pamela’s neighborhood sidewalk sale
are dead and the lilacs and wisteria are
overgrown.  The roses of Sharon sprawl
and no one has de-headed the dead buds
from my rose bushes so new ones can form.

I can’t stay or get angry anymore
now that physical pain is plucked from my
legs and spine, now that I’ve dared fertilize
the rest of my life.  I don’t know yet what
can grow or yield after a healing year. 
I may need another operation
or may be digging in the ground as if
I never suffered from sciatica.
None of us will be the same in a year.  

20 AUGUST 2015

Pus pours from the warmth behind my right hip
I try to walk, but my legs are from three
weeks ago—rubbery and non-responsive.
I teeter at the edge of my bed, reach
to find a cane, walker or wheelchair—all
gone—and I fall, fall, fall without finding
a floor to land on, rolling and bruising
my new back, denting and cracking ribs and
vertebrae until this fear explodes and
I am a lump of blood and puss marring
a green grassy landing field with red of
crushed rose petals and white of whipping cream.

I laugh.  How I imagined medical
intervention might work as if plastic
surgery on nerve endings!  Now I can
only write in candy cane colors, flat
as a pancake with curdled cottage cheese
and raspberries, each sentence a lie and
each line a painful cry for help, each crime
pleading for forgiveness. I tried to trick
fate.  Sorry.  Give me a spine.  I promise
never to covet another than mine,
to improve on the sculpture of nature.
Shape me again, so I can harden marred
but whole, so I can feel the bed’s edge near
my thigh and the drain hole closed in my back
and three weeks healed, a new installation.

21 AUGUST 2015

A Day Early

(for Dr. Paul Marcotte)

I wake on the single bed in my study
crickets and traffic tickle my ears
midnight hour

No buzzers, beeps and broken cries for nurses
no vast creamy walls devoid of art
ceiling fans

Earlier today, my surgeon smiled and shook
my hand earnestly, thinking I knew
our achievement

All is as it should be at four weeks after
such bold choices.  Imagine fixing
the problem

Instead of living with it—pruning  the tree
instead of watching its long branches

and crack the entire noble form nature made.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

VISION: Last Song of the Dead


Last Song of the Dead

by Sumana Roy at her blog "Vision"  

The guillotine voice whispers

An eye for an eye

We lost our land and eyes

Eons ago

We subsisted on black milk

Before decapitation

We cling

To the little root of a dream

Of a Child of Sight

To open all eye

Before this hour

Shall cease to be


I must keep this poem, remembering the brilliance of one of my partners at Poets United, but also recalling the scriptural basis of "an eye for an eye."  Was it Gandhi who said that "an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind"?  I cringe every time vengeance is the response--just as much as I cringe and weep at the violence of the original slaughter.  And never being able to know what was the original, I pray for the last act--for the one who will turn and say "Look at you continuing the violence! I will not join you in hate."  However, I am beginning to believe that some hatred is a devil that will not die unless we kill it.  I pray about this, that it not take over my life.  I reread Sheri Tepper's Grass where she examines this possibility and rejects it--rejects the superior innocence and withdrawal from the world of those who, under any circumstances, will not kill.  Is this a privilege of those protected in a land of political posturing where the weapons of destruction are being sold right in front of our eyes to countries we pay to do our dirty work?  I find this confusing, confusing.  At times, dear God, I wish to be a tree.

Monday, June 29, 2015


Poets United: A CHAT WITH SUSAN CHAST ~ ON POETRY AND SOCIAL JUS...: My friends, get ready for a serious, but very enjoyable, conversation on a topic our community has demonstrated a concern about - our need ...

That's how Sherry's interview with me starts.  She is the political one--or maybe we make a team--her in ecology and me in social justice but both working to keep spirit alive and form right relations among all things/beings on earth.  And true to form, here's my birthday poem--not really a poem--but this blog is for discussion, not for poetry. 

Birthday Poem at Age 64

Looking at the birthday candles I think
Fire next time. And James Baldwin leans in to
my consciousness. I can't help it. This day
is a happy one, indeed. So many
people are paying attention to my
birthday that I am overwhelmed. And yet
I can't forget the Black churches burning
five of them—which wasn't what the wise man
had in mind. Build an Ark, he meant—better
yet—End Your Domination because when
God acts again, we won't be able to
float away from it in a movable.
feast—nothing as easy as camping might
seem in conditions exiles have endured
together. Fire next time. Equality
and respect are that urgent. As urgent
as blowing out these candles before they
burn down into the cake melting sugar
meant to make life sweet—my life—lovely. Sweet.

And I am 64.  Amazing.  I never expected to get this far.  And I have a sense there are many more years to go.  Of course one never knows.  But just in case, I'm going to include Parker Palmer's beautiful picture with Mary Oliver's poem here:

Now this poem is a gift to all of us!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

re-Mothering: Poems by Susan Chast

My book, sent to Lulu.com, is being published today!!!  It will be "on the shelves" in 2-4 weeks!  It will be available for e-readers in 3-4 days!!!


Paperback, 92 Pages 
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To “re-mother” is to nurture, a mothering not outgrown by crossing the line from childhood into adulthood. Like falling in love with the same person again and again, mothering once is not enough. Renewal is necessary.
Re-Mothering: Poems by Susan Chast presents 70 poems about getting and giving nurture from family, friends, companions in faith and love, God, Earth, elements of nature, stories and imagination.

Scary! Cool! Exciting! Who will buy it? Who will review it? I'm going to buy 30 copies with my discount so I can offer reviewers a free copy.  Autographed!  So I can give them to the great women who helped me prepare this book!

I have other reactions that I cannot voice yet.
I would benefit from hearing the experience of others!