Thursday, April 27, 2017

Do You Have Anything For Leaving?

Do you have anything for leaving?
I want heels, devil red,
sharp toes, and expensive.

You know the type.
Those that walk over excuses,
leave a mark, put an exclamation
point on goodbye.

Hell, I’ve been living a country song
without giving a shit about the music.
He kept singing the same tune
until I couldn’t take another sour note.

He had a love affair with the bottle,
the smell of cheap cologne, and
saying it wasn’t his fault.

That pair! Yes, those are the ones.
It doesn’t matter about the cost.
I’ve been living it, now he can pay.
Oh, and I don’t need the box.

 ©Susie Clevenger 2017


Real Toads ~ Writing Shoes

(No, this isn't about me, but I know plenty of women who have needed these shoes.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tin Can Dry

Art by Karin Gustafson--all rights reserved

Bloom where you’re planted?
We are tin can, half priced
dried out skull plants.
Please don’t go on about
a glass’s water line.
I’m too thirsty for optimism.

I’m not sure about the current move.
She bookshelved us to spine up to
someone called Mary Oliver.
I hope she comes back soon
with that drink she promised us.

It is cooler in here. I am so over
that yellow marble and your
constant poem babble in my ear
about light nesting us in hope.

That bird keeps looking at us.
We don’t have any fruit,
there’s not a worm in the pot,
and I stopped blooming weeks ago.

Oh, wait…yes, yes…
The lady with the savior complex
is keeping her promise….WATER!
It feels divine…. My roots are twitching.

I think I just might get used
to the feel of this shelf we’re sitting on.
Stop looking so smug. You know it was
my whining that brought us here.
Really? Can I at least enjoy the water
a few minutes before you start in
with the glass thing again?!?

©Susie Clevenger 2017

I am so grateful Karin Gustafson provided her art as inspiration for our writing. You can see more of her art here.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

I Gather Wildflowers Among Beasts

Vine Wood ~ Agnes Lawrence Pelton, 1913
Fair use, Link ~ Wikipedia

I gather wildflowers
among beasts,
those nameless,
wary watchers
who fear I will
steal spring.

They once
owned Eden,
the prayer path
of migration,
winter before
the melting.

I carry the scent
of humans,
the devastators
who claimed dominion
over all they never owned.

Mother Nature
had warned them
those who speak
with tongues
carried death
on their fingertips.

I’ve only come
to pick wildflowers,
and plant purple hyacinths
as penitence to show my sorrow
humans couldn’t discern
it was they who should
be named beast.

 ©Susie Clevenger 2017

 My late contribution for Earth Day
(Purple Hyacinths are the flower given when you wish to show remorse.) 


Monday, April 24, 2017

Immortality's Feather

Peacock, the shimmer
trapped in your feathers
will not surrender to death.
The glory in your plumes speaks
of eternal gold and breath
reborn in lungs plague blackened.

Your eye feathers hold immortal’s vision.
Life in blood, bone, and flesh sends hope
God will collect our dust to raise our bodies
from tombs hollowed by sorrow.

The majesty of your movement
erases doubt the earth you stride
can ever own the wind ruffling your wings.

Oh what is beauty if it is only defined
by a mirror that denies the glory of the soul?
Blessed peacock, you teach us grace
is the heart’s paintbrush and our reflection
is an inward light no earthly artist
can translate to canvas.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

I attempted a more historical period feel in this poem other than my usual contemporary voice.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bukowski's Bird Baiting

“Holy tongues preach lives
outside their consecration
are incredible fuck ups,
back wash, rainbow trash can liners,
pointless dreams.”
Come on Bukowski, I walked
right through your bird baiting
and never acknowledged the hypocrisy.

Those winged congregations
know how to sing harmony.
We loners sing solos at the top of our lungs
until the world throws us a finger to shut up.

Let’s have a beer, foam our upper lips with silence
until we get a little rose color on the horizon.
We might not reach harmony, but surely we
can find enough unity to create a melody.

Life is always gold before the tarnish.
Honey will eventually spoil if it is
tin spooned with Armageddon.
We can be the soft landing when
blackbirds no longer trust the nest.

  ©Susie Clevenger 2017

Poetic reference for today's poem

Saturday, April 22, 2017


Painting by Mi Young Lee

Summer twilight dances
with shadow cloaked roses
to a sand song playing
on the southern breeze.

Void of sunlit frenzy
dreams wander
among blind windows
in search of hooded eyelids
to explore.

With a mother’s tenderness
night hours stroke
a purring clock
in the calm before alarm.

Silently inspiration collects images
to feed poetry when first light
rises hungry for words.

 ©Susie Clevenger 2017

My heartfelt thanks to Mi Young Lee who gave me this incredible art piece and inspired my poetry. Her joyful, kind spirit is such a blessing. Please learn more about her and her art on her website at Mi Young Lee.

Friday, April 21, 2017


Words throat deep,
truth rimmed, and
handcuffed to outrage
can’t enter my voice.

Ears, always ears
glued to the dark side
of hearing listen
for a chance to rebel tag
a soul brash enough
to speak the truth.

Patience dances with reason,
my spirit screams now,
bloodshot arguments spin forward
against the wall where free speech died.

speak up … SPeAk uP… SPEAK UP!
I’m weighing my words against
the length of the rope, dividing the cost
by the width of the bars.

I feel the day walking along my spine,
hell has a bribe, heaven a gate.
There are too many sisters who will never speak.

Life is not living if you’re seen and not heard.
My body is my body. My voice is my voice.
I’ll roar against the mantide who would rob me of choice.
Speech has a price, revolution a fight.
Tomorrow is too urgent to enter it mute.

©Susie Clevenger 2017


Real Toads ~ "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream


Dark Poetry For The Cruelest Month

Thursday, April 20, 2017

One Crow Wing From Discovery

I measured each bruise by six feet,
hell by each bone snap of my ribs.
Satin sheet midnight feeds the sky secrets,
and I am one crow wing from discovery.

I keep waiting for the sun, keep watching the trees.
Limbs are waiting for judges…I’m waiting for reprieve.

There’s no love in a fist, no heart in a blow.
Those crows have heard my sorrow.
Those crows have seen my pain.

He kept saying, “You get what you deserve.”
It didn’t matter how many red lights lined the driveway
or how much paper filled a file. Daddy’s money
sparkled green. Daddy’s money paid for lies.

Now I’m counting hours until crow light,
waiting for murder to fill the trees.

©Susie Clevenger 2017


Wednesday, April 19, 2017


My heart is dog-eared,
a book well read, but
always eager to write
a new chapter.

I remember when
it was brand new,
clean pages, fresh print.

It had been on the shelf
for an eternity of fifteen years,
(Youth can’t tell time)
when love pulled it from the library.

He was just a few pages in,
bookmarking all my tender passages,
when he didn’t like my interpretation.

First love, first rejection,
I didn’t approve his edit.
He wanted a Reader’s Digest
rewrite of my NO.
I preferred to keep all my pages
until someone would appreciate the read.

 ©Susie Clevenger 2017


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sin Scrubbed

Her husband wanted her squeaky clean, sin scrubbed,
too many eyes and tongues were playing darts.

Cinched tight in the Bible belt she had just enough
freedom to walk a straight line, but not enough
to question the destination.
Five steps into narrow she learned a pretty lie
could polish the pulpit, but truth could empty the pews.

Born on the far side of his dad’s fire and brimstone he peddled fear
with the finesse of a master manipulator, and the quick jaw
of a used car salesman selling overpriced to an empty pocket.

Learning late is still learning…Her husband was definitely his father’s son.
Her confessions might dirty the holy water, but his would turn it to mud.
For the first time in four revivals she was eager to go to the altar.
If he wanted a sin scrubbing, she’d provide the soap.

©Susie Clevenger 2017


Real Toads ~ The Tuesday Platform

Monday, April 17, 2017

Another Needle Into The Unknown

Another needle slips into the unknown
trying to gather enough answers to feed a question.
A mass grows, spirits sink and minds cling to the moment
fearing tomorrow will go askew.

We can’t cry and laugh at the same time.
We give tears their fifteen minutes, then outsource
despair to negative, and find smiles to keep us strong.

Life isn’t easy because you can smile. You smile because life isn’t easy.
We’ve worn out the soles of countless shoes walking marble tile
while spinning one liners around a clock.

We are a family of four living in a question mark.
We pray… We lace our shoes… We fight hell with humor
because laughter is the best offense when days
become monsters by another needle lusting for a knife.

   ©Susie Clevenger 2017

For those who might not know my oldest daughter, Dawn, has lots of autoimmune health issues as well as being a survivor of kidney cancer. Last Monday, April 10, she had another lung biopsy of a mass. We haven't gotten the official diagnosis of the biopsies, but it appears they are cells related to autoimmune activity.  

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Defying Gravity Is A Mortal Wish

I want to walk yellow brick.
Defying gravity is a mortal wish,
but it’s an empty sky when
you can’t hear the birds sing.

Everyone has a bit of darkness
right below their rainbow speech.
There’s plenty of damning
on the cloud side of a smile.

I am wart, broom, and spell.
There’s never a line I won’t cross.
Miss Sweet knows who to call
when her tongue needs more spite.

It is hard being green when pink
is celebrated by blushes.
I want to stroll on yellow brick,
and live within a mortal’s wish to defy gravity.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Friday, April 14, 2017

Nest For Invisible

I beg for a dollar, but your pocket  is cold.
The concrete carves a nest for invisible to hatch.

You don’t like the view from your window,
the trash is covering manicured grass.
I have skin and bone, a rusty heart, two degrees in math,
but I am lower than the pigeons shit-bombing your trees.

You roll me in assumptions, plastic bag me loser,
and fall into your smart phone shuffling selfies until
you have enough Photoshop to impress with a lie.

Never a question, never a word… I’m a paper bird
dressed in second hand waiting to be recycled.
It’s hard to learn how to fly in a sky made of concrete.

©Susie Clevenger 2017


Real Toads ~ Invisible

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Thin Excuse

There’s a thin excuse in gullible,
but if you’re still buying the bridge
after the second lie, you’re
getting a buzz off the hustle.

©Susie Clevenger 2017


Real Toads ~ Get Listed

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Bit Gray In My Escape

It’s a bit gray in my escape.
I’ve hung bright colored curtains,
but these walls are wrong.

The paint was supposed
to have a touch of pearl,
you know “jewelry on drab,”
but it hits with something
more like incarceration.

I should paint the walls red,
make it feel like I’m inside a heart.
It would be a nice contrast
to the teeth marks I can leave with my tongue.

Oh well, butterflies can’t always choose
the right shade for their cocoons,
but they can pick the attitude for a new set of wings.

©Susie Clevenger 2017


Real Toads ~ Out of Standard ~ Signs Of The Times

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Bullet Mad

"Heard the singers playing, how we cheered for more.
The crowd had rushed together, trying to keep warm.
Still the rain kept pouring, falling on my ears.
And I wonder, still I wonder who'll stop the rain."
Creedence Clearwater Revival ~ Who'll Stop the Rain

The world is bullet mad.
Anger twists tongues in to threats,
tomorrow smells like smoke.

How many bombs until
the earth is gone?
How much thirst until we’re dust?

Religion is collecting martyrs,
bartering evil for a god stamp.
Love is four letters of unknown.

Too many people are chasing endings,
betting on blood for new beginnings.

The world is bullet mad….
Tomorrow smells like decay.

©Susie Clevenger 2017


Real Toads ~ The Tuesday Platform

Monday, April 10, 2017

Paper Stars In A Heavy Metal Sky

Paper stars in a heavy metal sky
hang from electric umbilical chords
threaded through neon comets.

In a universe of wood and brick
they collect penny wishes
until pockets are emptied.

As real as pretense they fall
into hands willingly raised to claim
starlight is formed from a light switch.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Word List: paper, stars, electric, wishes

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Twitter of Poets

Sylvia Plath @sPlath Apr 9
I am well educated about death.
It arrived at my first breath
and steals heartbeats with the speed of a hare.
                     #life #death

Edgar Allan Poe @RealPoe Apr 9
Really? @sPlath I am the master of melancholy.
While you bemoan the loss of heart,
I am pecked morbid by a raven. #melancholy #ravenissues

Susie Clevenger @wingsobutterfly Apr 9
Please! @sPlath @RealPoe Life happens, bell jars break
and birds leave a mess. Drink a glass of wine
and stop living obituaries. #lifehappens  #obituaries

                     ©Susie Clevenger 2017

                    Real Toads ~ Twitter Me A Gothic Poem

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The World In Three Acres

When I was a young girl
revelation came to a small house
on a gravel road where agony
mossed the north side of dysfunction.
Angry words never reached
the roots of why … They just
left the broken bleeding.

When bitter shrank the walls,
I ran to where the wild things go
and buried my tears among
cottonwood seeds.

 With bare feet searching echoes
I roamed creek beds, watermelon vines,
and honeysuckle fences until a mockingbird song
bid me to sit and rest beneath its nest.

Open souled rhema came to me
in a psalm delivered on the wind.

“You are a child of earth and wings.
This world of three acres is your freedom.
Among decay, apple trees, bird,
deer, and rabbit are lessons to learn,
stories to tell, ties too strong to be severed.
The butterfly spirit lives in your heart,
wherever you fly hope will never desert you.”

So many years have weighted clock hands.
In the gray of shorter days I still hear
the wheel crush on gravel where dirt road met destiny.

 ©Susie Clevenger 2017


The photos are from that small bit of land where I grew up. The gravel road is the photo I chose for the cover of my book, Dirt Road Dreams.

Friday, April 7, 2017


Portrait of a Woman, 1895 ~ Henri Rousseau 

She can carry her weight
when rush comes to crush.

She knows when to start.
She knows how to finish.

The harder the climb,
the fewer the dimes.

She isn’t Eve,
but he plays God.

Equal is an adjective
misogyny won’t allow.

©Susie Clevenger 2017


Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Ghost's In The Wall

Somewhere in the mist of tree climbs,
moon dreams, and starlight wishes
sits a broken doll waiting for glue.

Ring around tears… Fear has a name…
Alone brings monsters… You’re never the same.

Hide in your pillow… The ghost’s in the wall.
Drink from Alice’s bottle until you’re so small
you’ll fit in a keyhole no key can unlock.

He is… I am… There’s no where to run.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

My path to written expression came as a result of childhood sexual abuse.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Mortal Conundrum

We set our clocks,
bind our throats,
and limit limitless.

The Universe holds countless truths,
but we force feed words
through a pen until divine
is housed in a narrow mind.

A star burns the sky
with the speed of light
while humans race
toward extinction
at the speed of denial.

The conundrum of mortal
is it can demonstrate unity
in a scientific lab spinning above gravity,
but bloodstain earth with death
over divergent philosophies.

©Susie Clevenger 2017


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Guilt Is Persistent

Spring Easter eggs the calendar
with resurrection…I confess
my sleeping dogs, then light
another candle praying its wick
will burn another hole in forgetting.

Guilt is a persistent thing.
With photographic memory
it plants my errors among
daffodils and prods me to
pick bouquets and ink notes to God.

©Susie Clevenger 2017


Note: The letter in the photo was not written by me. I found this little altar in a small grotto in Eureka, Springs, AR.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Grieving Stillborn Fruit

There is supposed to be a veil
between you and I dear Sun.
I am enamored with your bold stare,
but the heat of your affection
caused me to bud prematurely.

My heart breaks for confused spring
who felt your nudge to wake me
before I had strength to nurse
the tiny spirits birthed from my limbs.

How long do we cry before humans
will stop tearing the curtain between
the daylight star and earth’s heart?

I am a cherry tree grieving stillborn fruit.
My infants lie in frost-bitten bunting,
withered before the rose blush
could form on their cheeks.

 Susie Clevenger 2017


Real Toads ~ Speaking For Spring's Stillborn Sprouts

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Tax On Stargazing ~ #NaPoWriMo 2017

Reaching For The Moon ~ Edward Eggleston

Forever is as close as a telescope lens,
as far away as the other side of the universe,
as populated as all the names I’ve forgotten.

We humans have always wished for wings
and yet celebrate leaving footprints on the moon.
I wonder how long it will be before greed places a tax on stargazing.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Real Toads ~ Flash 55 Plus!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Bold Ass ~ #NaPoWriMo 2017

I am a bold ass,
the comedian of April
digging through words
thinking poetry can be cajoled
to dance with ink and thought.

Mystery drops breadcrumbs
and I pretend I am deep enough
to find my way to meaning.

It will be a long month of first days
until April can rest in May’s blooms.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Have You Ever Lived In Third Person

Empath ...
She was born in a nest
built from shadows, secrets, and tears.
A tiny girl old as yesterday’s locked tongue
was raw wired for channeling misery
before she took her first step.

(Have you ever lived in third person?
Every bump in the night carries whispers,
every scratch a wound, every battle
a knotted stomach, every failure a fall,
every they stripping I from your tongue.)

When a bird cracks through the egg
its an ugly little thing full of what if
and dreams of far flying wings.

With walls full of echoes and faces of ghosts
she never lived fairy tales other than Grimm.
Home wasn’t warm. Home wasn’t hope.
Home was a place she wished to escape.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Friday, March 17, 2017


Each day she welcomed
the knock at her door….
For a few short smiles
the world entered with kindness
carrying the scent of baked bread,
cinnamon, and roast beef.

She remembers the week silence began.
At first she thought it was a mistake.
There was snow, but her street was clear.
Monday was late. That’s all…Monday was just late.
But Tuesday forgot the soup, Friday the apple tart…
Days kept passing without a voice, the sound of a car door,
meals to keep life from surrendering to bone.

Now she listens to memories sing from the photographs on her wall.
A widow was once a wife, a dried womb a mother,
inked words turned poem, a soul led by compassion.

Weary, she sits by her kitchen window
dining on hunger pains, and lonely.
She had lived 80 Thanksgivings
to arrive at an empty cupboard on 81.

Her best lavender dress hangs in the doorway
so they will know it was her favorite color
when a knock returns to the front door.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Blue Sky Without A Credit Card

He seems to be a match,
as close to perfect
as imperfect can get.
I’m leery of the hoodwink.
His wallet brag and brawn view
may broadcast more where there is less.

There can be a whole lot of heart
under a dollar, and stone in a thousand.
If he can handle blue sky without a credit card,
he just might own the truth.

I won’t say I’m cheap,
but romance by coupon
let’s me taste the frosting
before I buy the cake.
I like to test the change
to see if tomorrow
can afford the weight.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

This was inspired by this book title: Dating for Under a Dollar: 301 Ideas, by Blair Tolman

Real Toads ~ Title Tale

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Twilight Pours Licorice

Photo: Alfred Cheney Johnston 

Twilight pours its licorice
across my tongue and I am
hostage to the bittersweet
taste of impetuous.

Romanced by starlight
sugaring the sky I let my body
learn the language of yours.

I never pack regrets
or salt wounds with weakness.
Tonight will write its memoir
in sandalwood and bergamot
across my skin…

Tomorrow is still a daydream.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I'd Own An Orchard

It’s been a little bleak lately.
If I had an apple for every alternate fact,
I’d own an orchard.

Now, I like dark comedy, but I am not fond of orange delivery.
That little blue bird T-boy keeps high jacking can’t get a feather dry
before he is putting more spit on hashtags.

There is so much blabbering about a slogan, Make America Great Again.
Yeah, I don’t know what that means either. I’d like them to get back
to making America a democracy again.

So much for swamp draining, government is looking more like
an alligator farm run by cannibals. For every dollar dropped
in the bid pot, T-boy is serving up favors. There just might be
some laughs though when golden wallets get emptied by association.

Yet I’m a sucker for hope. (Shoot, women been bringing it from the womb
since the very first baby bottom cry.) When faux tan drops another tweet,
snowflakes gather more frost. It may look a whole lot like midnight,
but the sun still crowns in the east.

©Susie Clevenger 2017

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Stench Of Extinction

Sumatran Tiger 5 (6964685356)

I am a tiger cursed with the stench of extinction.
My days are numbered by a bullet prophesy
spoken from the tip of a gun.

I’ve been robbed of generations
so I could be a trophy for egos
high on death and greed.

My DNA holds the glory of adaption,
water survival, isolation, bold stripes.
I am the glory of perseverance.

Sumatra, you are my home.
I cry you can’t save me from humans
infected with the myopic vision of blood lust. 

©Susie Clevenger 2017

You can read more about the Sumatran tiger here. This beautiful animal is nearing extinction. Poaching and deforestation are the enemies to their survival.

Photo credit: By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Sumatran Tiger 5  Uploaded by tm) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, March 2, 2017


She is there, pillow deep,
jasmine, lily, nutmeg
scented skin….

With each breath reality
blends with dream,
and his eyes struggle
for truth in his satin sea.

Slowly empty weights his arms.
The chill of gone raises goose bumps
where her perfumed body
had poured sunlight across his chest.

He turns to the nightstand beside his bed.
She always leaves a note….
Gone….He doesn’t like how it feels.

©Susie Clevenger 2017