Poet of the Day – Susan Wismer

National Poetry Month April 28, 2020

Susan Wismer

 The Babysitter
I wanted to touch
Mrs Quinn’s neck
my hand, stubby, unsure, poised
four years old
I wanted
to trace the round line of her collar
the base of her throat
rest, just for a moment
my pointer finger
on the cup of her bone, in the notch
a slight flutter, wrinkled soft hollow
on her rice papered skin
a sketch of wrinkles, finely wrought
brush painting
of age, of her years
By the time I was six, I knew
what everyone knew in our small town
husband long gone, grown son the town drunk
Suds, everyone called him
washed up at home in her little apartment
over the ladies’ wear shop, drank
everything away, they all said
what a shame
she sat children evenings, making ends meet.
My hesitant fingers reached out, touched
she moved my hand away
gently.  She didn’t mind
much, I could tell.
I choose to believe she went
next day to the drugstore
bought Evening in Paris, opened 
the narrow blue bottle right there in the store
placed a fragrant finger
to that small solitary place
my young hand had warmed
walked  home, proud and kind, through the town
in her worn black shoes, her one blue dress.
Published in Sound Me When I’m Done, ed. Lorna Crozier, Wintergreen Studios Press, Yarker, ON., chapbook, November 2016

1.     What inspired you to write this poem?

This is a true story.  I loved it when Mrs. Quinn came to our house.  I am probably now the age she was, then.  I still think of her often.  And I have never forgotten that moment when I dared to reach out to touch her throat, how much courage it took, how kind her response.

2.     What do you like about this poem?

In a small town, people know much about the details of each other’s lives.  But what about the hidden stories, untold thoughts?   I have tried to imagine something like that here.

3.     What would you change about this poem?

This poem is written as memoir, from my own perspective.  I would like to try to rewrite the poem imagining Mrs. Quinn’s story, in her voice.  Then go back to the first effort, see what I get.

4.     Where, when, and how often do you write?

I try to write daily.  Even a few words. I am not always successful at that.  About once a month, I try to clear away a day or two for writing – not always successful at that either.  But it’s a great goal.  I write where I can, at home at my desk downstairs, in coffee shops, on the train, in quiet moments wherever I find myself.

5.     What poetry books are you reading right now?

Karen Houle, The Grand River Watershed: a Folk Ecology (Gaspereau Press); Mary Barnes, What Fox Knew (At Bay Press).