Poets Read: Susanna Lang

We are pleased to offer our Poets Read series in honor of National Poetry Month 2019 and will run it throughout the month of April. 

Every day in April, our website and our YouTube channel will feature the voice of a poet whose work has appeared in our pages over the past year. On Sundays, we will offer two poets for your enjoyment. 

Today’s poem is What We Call It by Susanna Lang and it appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of Gyroscope Review.

What We Call It
by Susanna Lang

Where the road crosses Peavine Creek, a different vine
wreathes the railing with small white flowers,

Confederate jasmine—not jasmine at all
though the flowers smell sweet and soapy,

and Confederate only in its aversion to cold. 
I stop on the bridge to bury my face in its blossoms. 

They have other names we could use, since this one 
conjures so much suffering: Chinese ivy, angel wing, 

windmill, pinwheel, shining jasmine. In Uzbekistan, 
the name is trader’s compass: they say the flowers 

will point a trader toward the road he needs, but only
if he is of good character. That might be the name 

to choose, reminder that those who break the ancient laws 
of hospitality, and those who cast insults like stones, 

will be lost. Here there are clearly marked roads to follow 
with small white flowers blooming along the way, 

leading us forward with their fragrance on cloudy nights 
when the stars below do not reflect the stars above.

Susanna Lang

About the Poet: Susanna Lang’s third collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was released in 2017 from Terrapin Books (www.terrapinbooks.com). Her last collection was Tracing the Lines (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013, www.brickroadpoetrypress.com). A two-time Hambidge fellow, her poems have appeared in such publications as Little Star, Prairie Schooner, december, American Life in Poetry and Verse Daily.  Her translations of poetry by Yves Bonnefoy include Words in Stone and The Origin of Language.  She lives and teaches in Chicago. More information available at www.susannalang.com.