Demeter in the Valley || Susan Gubernat

Would she know this place without apple orchards,
bare vines crucifixed, with wires pulsing underground?

Would her naked feet sear on the macadam even
in late October light when he came for her daughter,

who, some said, went all too willingly? They’re like that,
daughters—fleeing from the open-mouthed

kisses of a mother, preferring a scraped cheek, the burn
of the seducer’s rough beard. At the roadside

sere berry canes shoot out a second crop, weaker.
Overnight basil plants blacken before harvest

as if his leathered hands have rifled through them.
Now her basket’s full of pine needles, of resin that clings

to her fingers. It’s his smell, the smell of machines,
their whining and clatter, their locks eased open.

Susan Gubernat, poet and librettist, is the author of The Zoo at Night which won the Prairie Schooner book prize (University of Nebraska Press), Analog House (Finishing Line Press), and Flesh, which won the Marianne Moore Prize (Helicon Nine Editions). Her poems have appeared in Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gargoyle, Michigan Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, and numerous other journals. She wrote the libretto for the three-act opera “Korczak’s Orphans” in collaboration with composer Adam Silverman. Gubernat holds an MFA from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. A professor emerita of English at California State University, East Bay, she has been awarded artist residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell, the Millay Colony, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Born in Newark, New Jersey, Gubernat lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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