Susanna Lang

Launch

But the women are coming up blessed be God and a few of the men are coming up with them.
—Sojourner Truth, at the Woman’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, 1851

Chalk figures lie head to head
across the sidewalk, fingers twined

like trapeze artists stretching a human bridge
at the top of the big top. Green and blue

rockets soar, three two one booster
ignition and liftoff, and Maddy,

almost too old for it, hopscotches
through all the squares, counts

three two one and she’s done. When
the rains fall and the waters rise,

rockets will have nowhere to land
and trapeze artists will fall or fly

off to Mars—she is not old enough
to leave and never come back.

*

Leave and never come back:
Maddy climbs to the top of the slide

and the top of the roof over the highest
slide, pauses to savor the before

she takes off, arms upraised and wind
at her back, never mind the grown-ups’

warnings. Never falls. Why wouldn’t she
build her own rocket as her brother

builds planes with glue gun and balsa wood,
controls the drone that tilts and whirls

over the park, crashing—and yes,
someone said to be careful—into the topmost

branch of a tree? And climbs,
leaves shivering as he goes, to retrieve it.

*

Leaves shiver like wings as she too climbs
inside the green tent, finding each next

handhold and crotch of branch, trapeze
bar laced to the heavens and launches

once more, faith unshaken in the grace of wind
and her own arms, for the women are coming up

blessed be and here comes another
body swinging like hers into the void—

her mirror image, legs hooked over his own
bar and reaches to grasp her wrists, for a few

of the men are coming up with them and at least
until the rains come and the waters rise, this bridge

hangs suspended over the long walk to a new land,
sister and brother flying into each other’s arms.

Susanna Lang

Susanna Lang’s new collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was released in summer 2017 from Terrapin Books. Her last collection was Tracing the Lines (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013).  A two-time Hambidge fellow, her poems have appeared in such journals as Little Star, Prairie Schooner, december, Prime Number Magazine and Verse Daily.  Her translations of poetry by Yves Bonnefoy include Words in Stone and The Origin of Language. Among her current projects is Self-Portraits, a chapbook collection of ekphrastic poems focused on women across the arts. She lives with her husband in Chicago.