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Likely Stories : Poems 4 A.M., by Susan Minot


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Susan Minot grew up in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts.  Her superb novels include Monkeys, Evening, Folly, Lust & Other Stories.  Poems 4 A.M.  is her first volume of poetry.  She currently lives on North Haven Island in Maine.  


Susan’s poems are poignant, heartfelt, and quite moving.  The first poem is “Boston Ancestors” – “I hear them behind me crossing Persian rugs on heal-less shoes, / drinking Dubonnet, / eating nuts (from the pantry the smell of stew), / talking about naval battles and varsity crew, their voices raspy with cigars in underheated rooms. // Someone sewed their eyes shut with needlepoint thread and when they speak they make up for it in booming tones. // It is somewhere out of them alive or dead I have sprung. / Yet not a person there seems to recognize me. / Not one” (3).

The next is “Interloper” – “There’s a cat up on the roof with stripes across his face. / He has the curious guarded look of a cat who knows its place may be inhabited by other cats. / I see him through the window past yellow tangles on the sill, / beyond the long pegged rack of all my heartsick hats. / He lifts his paw and shakes off rain. / His face is wild and true. / For a moment he relieves me of the pain of loving you.” (25). 

Another, “The Toast” – After I’ve made it stumbling through the day And Liquid light surrounds the windowsill, / After paper buds have furled their wrinkled way And, / tired, / I’ve relaxed my will / I think of you and your warm embrace And recall the disturbed calmness of your face In repose. // And all the sorrow I’ve contained This brilliant Tuesday in this lonely place Vanishes. // It topples down the hours strained Till memory leaves another trace: / The time you smiled and covered me with kisses And clicked your teeth to mine in a brisk toast And I think, / at least I have that clinking ghost” (49).

“Upper West Side Blizzard” – “Soon the snow that’s falling now at midnight this first day of spring will melt eventually and go. // The snow, / the leaves—well, / everything—brings disappearance with it. // I suppose one day I’ll go to bed and not think of how your hips and arms and eyes are set. // They say that will happen soon. // I wait. // It hasn’t happened yet.” (52). 

And lastly, “Say you’ll always be” – “As dear to me as you are now, / make me stay. // Tell me time is nothing, / that you’ll never go away. // Say without me near to you you’d die. // Say always and forever. // My heart, / my darling, / lie” (87).

These brief poems, Poems 4 A.M. by Susan Minot give a hint of longer pieces in deeper heartfelt words.  5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.