Poems: Susan Richardson

Poems: Susan Richardson


 In wildness is the preservation of the world – from Thoreau’s ‘Walking’

Don’t think of a white bear.

Don’t let the tundra of your head

become encumbered.

     My sea ice recedes. Leads bleed

     and gush like the gash from a walrus tusk.

Don’t think of a white bear.

In your mind-zoo try to

linger with the flamingoes

or dwell with wise elephants there.


     The Great Bear in the sky from whom I seek

     insight has shifted. I’ve been gifted a home range

     that keeps me caged as the liver of a seal.


Don’t think of a barely-white bear.

Don’t stare at the algae that’s turned

her fur green. Pretend you’ve never seen

this slur of heat and concrete.


     I follow ancient snowprints of those who roamed

     the north – woolly mammoths, unipeds,

     the three-toed horse – as I lumber over

     the border from normal to fable.


Don’t think of a white bear,

a snared-in-a-recurring-nightmare bear.

Don’t despair at her pauseless pacing

from bored wall to bored wall.

     Memory hides in a snow lair. I want to stalk,

     snatch, claw it open – force

     these paws to remember more than

     forward    back    forward    back


Don’t think of a white hermaphrodite bear.

Don’t care about arctic-blown pollutants, spewed

from the flame-retardant clothes you wear.


     Between my grieving thighs, an ice floe lies.

     By sun and moon, all I do is gawp, disbelieving,

     at both breathing hole and harpoon.






a rumour of plumage
a mutter of us
as the sky finds its tongue and stutters

the first few syllables of spring

then starts to sing
a chorus of us
a John Rutter mass of wings and light
and a dazzle
of down as we swoosh

to the ground
a ruched arctic circle curtain of us

an epic distance travelled yet again of us
an eighteen-hundred-mile unravelled skein of us
that knits a nest
of air and space
to embrace the golden egg
we’ve laid

a thrill of us
a shrill of us
a million billion quills of us
have written a script forbidding sleep
so we peck it to death
on the tundra at our feet

yet you must wonder
at our numbers
while there’s time
for summer soon begins to moult
and a shiver in the sky
implies the raven’s close behind

the gush of us
becomes a hush of us
the horizon’s guilty blush of us

from the bliss of an all-together honk of us
to the hiss

of a single



These poems are also to be found in Susan Richardson’s new poetry collection Where the Air is Rarefied, with prints by visual artist Pat Gregory, Cinnamon Press, 2011.