Susan Tichy


Leg Muscle Finds a Mountain

Where the Eye Finds Only This or That

Not this or that but bobcat scat
I guess—too high for lion

Not high for lion but any line
on paper will look like a path

(‘if you put the dark touch 
on the side of it nearest the sun’)

Willows have grown at the crossing
—all rock, no tracks to read there

Mountain + water = landscape
or mountain + water = cloud

At Lakes of the Clouds, an empty bottle
flights of fish in the limestone

(‘thus rigidly to economize the regions of dream’)

Say pine-bird, willow-bird
dragging-my-wing-through-the-anthill bird

half a square mile of head-high willow
between me and the trees

Not the trees but a stand of white pine
Not white pine but the rain we ran from

Not the rain we ran from
but the rain


Not much here to talk about, and I
Would walk straight into that, the trap
Of sunlight, three spare thrushes
Alive in the underbrush, a first
Embellishment, last correction

And if ‘by being alive to difficulty
One can avoid it,’ I’ll take all night
To pack one pack, clean one boot
‘He shot the radio and then himself’
—So says my radio, but ‘you must

Go on, again with the pen’
Study each moment with a pointed tool
‘Expendable man where horrid crag’
Or ‘transferring my winged thoughts’
Fault line where a world ends/

Begins, governed by laws of a wholly
Other existence, up-to-date explanations
Of avalanches, and
‘What strange things we are’—the thrushes’
Voices, explainable, by split syrinx

Doubling song, so it seems to arrive
From two directions: now try to find them
In wrist-thick vines, in pine-duff hush:
Longinus’ words for affect reassigned 

To mist and rock, to distance and
‘It’s the quietness of the danger
I love,’ the pre-dawn light
On snowy ridges, cup-rings on the map 
A solid wall

Of steep dark spruce and a snow chute
That tumbles into young aspen
Water-greedy, pale as moths
Their rock-path, root-path, striped
By sunlight, puddle mirror

On a flat rock, what will I see?
The body, like all conspirators
Untrustworthy, driven like cloud
From steep to steep, or
Narrow wet trail through head-high 

Willows—a rough paper, a pencil line—
And each fact verifiable
‘Demand for mountain epiphanies,’ and
Why that boulder lies in that field
A painter whose brush technique was called

‘The capture of a fort in war’ or
‘Decreasing resemblance to anything’—
Exact words as I wrote them down
One teaspoon of snow unmelted
On the shadow side of a rock


Because pure, causeless human sorrow
is out of fashion, I went out to lean on an aspen tree:

innocent literalism    of a steep trail

curve of the snow-chute
match-stick spruce trunks

fallen    or flung: 
‘the most magnificent piece of ruin 

I have yet seen’
Beds of limestone    bent like a rainbow:

‘a fine accomplice to metaphysics’
‘erodes according to first flaws’

Stones from a tricklet
(red pebble the size of two match heads)

or same vortex, sprindrift
haunting the highest ridges

And where in this body is pain to be found?

Down here, in too-dense, drought-wrought forest
dead spruce lean, but can’t fall

Aspen running like flame among them

Cloud    that does not touch the snow

Of Half the Views I Have Yet Said Nothing

of wind to bully a waterfall
back up the cliff

of black and white butterflies 
hail and dust / no rain / the pain

of deadfall timber
two or three miles that feel like eight

of stepping over
torn and blistered

(wild rose petals 
on the toe of my boot)

the creek, when we reach it
dry / and wrong

the map in our heads
—torn at an old crease—

useless now
we turn downhill

Deer tracks will lead us
to firmer sand

and time passes
—don’t worry boys—

riverbeds in pillars 
at the Customs House



Susan Tichy‘s most recent books are Gallowglass (2010) and Bone Pagoda (2007), both from Ahsahta Press. Trafficke, a mixed-form book on family history, both true and false, will be out in 2015. The poems in this issue are from a book-in-progress, The Avalanche Path in Summer. She teaches at George Mason University, and when not teaching lives in a ghost town in southern Colorado. Visit