Susan Rich


Susan Rich is an award-winning poet, editor, and teacher living in the Pacific Northwest. She’s the author of four poetry collections including, most recently, Cloud Pharmacy, and The Alchemist’s Kitchen (White Pine Press) and co-editor of the anthology, The Strangest of Theatres, published by the Poetry Foundation and McSweeneys. Rich has received awards from 4Culture, Artists Trust, Fulbright Foundation, The Times Literary Supplement (London) and the Seattle Mayors Office of Arts and Culture. Her poems appear in: The Antioch Review, The Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review, O Magazine, New England Review, and Pleiades. She lives and writes in West Seattle, WA.



- for Susan B.

In Jamaica we lied about our lives,
told the men we met that we worked

at a small college—somewhere mid-western.
We expected it might dissuade them

for a minute from their enthusiastic declarations
of love, their offer to gift us drugs

to pack across the border. Perhaps,
underneath our books, we craved the criminal,

the indelible thrum: to exist as international
smugglers—sweet agents of deceit.

We would escape to five-star hideouts,
tap code words that moved kilos

along one unspoken here, to there.
What could go wrong?

Your face is full of innocence, they said
as if we were one woman instead of too

close friends. Two windows marked open
and closed. Dear other self, dear miscreant,

dear Susan—yes, you—our
coordinates well-matched—brilliantine

and sparkling in green boots, green
pockets, green scarves spinning us beyond

the singular—where friends equal more
than the extraordinary. Don’t say

the exact point on the map, say we lived
in a world where longing still

tangled with something tangible—
the trilled whistle and burn of release.

Writing poems about friendships between women is a subject I find enormously compelling. I revised ‘Coordinates’ on and off for more than a decade, and I think I needed all that time to include the nuances of humor, excitement, longing, and love that I hope are communicated in this final version. Today, we are in a moment when women's friendships are part of a larger public inquiry on how women worldwide are treated. I'm thrilled to add my small contribution to the conversation.