Death, Life, And Everything Else

By Susan Carlson

I. Death

A bird in the house means it.

But when it slips through the vent

hides its new life on the other side of the closet wall –

its scratching and crying sounds

like it’s inside my clothes,

the ones just hanging there, waiting –

can that be death in seven forms, each one

opening and closing its tiny new mouth?

I call someone, and even though his ad says humane

he tells me he has to vacuum it out through a hose,

babies and all. I was scared when I didn’t know.

Squirrels, mice, bats — even their young —

menace. But baby birds. I’m not happy about it,

think it’s lousy, in fact, for it to come to me

this way. Still, I leave it alone even as I think about it

there, shitting on the other side of my clothes. Each day I rise

to its cries. The humane man with the hose assures me

it will fly away any day now. That’s the way of things

after all. All new life arrives this way, everything

born tender, each hungry mouth


II. Life

Every doctor thinks he has more

money than I do, even before he knows

what I do, because he knows what I have

before he knows what I do.

That’s not it.

There’s more

lost every day. Days take it

out of me. Why don’t surgeons

ever talk about what they leave behind?

That’s it.

What do you remember

about when you were small? Big people

telling you what to do? Every doctor

is not a man.

I remember the first day

I was told to push the mower

over the grass, remember the heat

and how the handle made my hands

tremble. I thought about ants.

I remember that now, how I thought

about ants at the root of it all.

III. And Everything Else

As if it weren’t important, piling up

unattended but taking all

the space.

Portable chairs

carried from garage to gazebo

and the music. Musicians holding

sheets in the wind. Clothespins

clamp notes to what stands.

It could be a small town – orchestra

in a square. It could be a small sound —

the thing heard around what’s happening

there. An ambulance may scream through

it all. Just fine. It could be. Or nothing at all.

What’s left over

everything that’s

worn underneath

all flying


Susan Carlson lives and works in southeastern Michigan.  After years of solitary writing, she has recently begun working intently with other poets, bringing her own work into the open.  This is her first publication.