Susana H. Case



On the kitchen floor, you can’t breathe.
I say, anxiety attack,
won’t breathe. Can’t, you say.
Won’t, I say,
air of a thousand breaths
pressing against what turns out to be
a hole in your lung.
Bent, gasping,
you can’t get a cab to stop.
I flag down some cops
who haven’t been to bad-cop school;
they drive us to the ER,
to where your doctor will meet us, smiling
with pride at his ability to finally diagnose.
Earlier on the phone, he, too, said, anxiety attack,
has the degree, should have known better.
A day spent with lung holes,
donut holes in the waiting room,
and in the day’s diminishment,
hours trying to get admitted to this dump,
as if it were Princeton,
we wait for a part of you to re-inflate.

The things that take one’s breath away: sickly,
my mother says of you,
not so promising. Wrong, I tell her,
draw in some air.
The breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.
Breath catches.

Lover’s Cross

The dog of deepening melancholy
trailed her home for one bowl of kibble

(so she thought), ended up on a pallet
next to her bed.

Near her table set for one.
I wish she hadn’t sung a sad song,

hadn’t swallowed the pills that killed her.
The ex-lover wasn’t worth

her slow, painful self-execution.
She might as well have been crucified

outside the arched Esquiline Gate.
There’s no specific place reserved

for those hung up by love.
The fated love-making, a crurifragium

for smashing heart and bones.
Did she invoke Liberata,

ragazza con la barba,
patron saint
of wrong suitors, liberation

from tribulation? (Liberata wasn’t saved.)
Nestled in, the rheumy-eyed stray

assessed past and future.
Told her love always lies.

Shouldn’t Have

Moving into a life
that doesn’t require careful packing,
I load a carton of jeans and tees
into my boyfriend’s classic Chevy,
leaning left from the weight
of my collection of Clapton
and Waits, sure that everything
worth happening
happens in Northern California.
I re-name myself Rainbow-Dreamer,
take a chance on a slick road,
the knotted icy grit of winter tossing us
against the guard rail of I-80.

Wrecked in every way,
on the edge of Ohio,
the soon to be ex-boyfriend
pummels the dashboard,
screams, what now? On the soundtrack,
Lonesome and a Long Way From Home.
The state trooper with wide-brimmed hat
leans in, you okay? Able to say yes,
I hold my trembling dog, who never
could look a Chevy in the eye again.
My older self,
on the edge of the road
is ticking off: body—fine; mind—
like a dissected map with a few pieces gone.
But, I’m not listening
and I don’t yet know that person
who’s checking.

 Copyright © 2012  Susana H. Case

Susana H. Case, professor at the New York Institute of Technology, has recent work in many journals, including Hawai’i Pacific Review, Portland Review and Potomac Review. She is the author of the chapbooks The Scottish Café (Slapering Hol Press), Anthropologist In Ohio (Main Street Rag Publishing Company), The Cost Of Heat (Pecan Grove Press), and Manual of Practical Sexual Advice (Kattywompus Press). An English-Polish reprint of The Scottish Café, Kawiarnia Szkocka, was published by Opole University Press in Poland. Her book, Salem In Séance (WordTech Editions) will be released in 2013. Please visit her online at: