I first met Susan O’Donnell Mahan in Minneapolis when we both attended the launch of Kiss Me Goodnight. The poem she wrote for that book is titled “World View” and is about her mother Florence ‘Sis’ O’Donnell who died when Susan was 14. Susan and a couple other poets who appeared in Kiss Me Goodnight (Patti Wojcik Wahlberg and Tekla Dennison Miller) responded to my call for submissions. And now Susan and I keep up on Facebook, where I noticed she has published some poems. So I asked her if she would contribute a guest blog, and here it is.
When asked to give her bio, Susan who lives in Weymouth, MA, writes: “Susan Mahan has been writing poetry since her husband died in 1997. She is a frequent reader at poetry venues and has written four chapbooks, “Paris Awaits” “In The Wilderness of Grief”, “Missing Mum”, and “World View.” She joined the editorial staff of The South Boston Literary Gazette in 2002. She has been published in a number of journals and anthologies. : )”
Susan posted this poem last week and introduced it on FB by saying a framed copy of the poem was going to hang in South Boston Arts Association display in Boston City Hall, steaming up the building for a month. It gave me a chuckle.
He came to steam the carpets clean,
one sultry summer morn.
His rugged face was handsome,
and his cut-off jeans were torn.
He’d parked his truck behind my car,
allowing no escape.
My heart began to flutter,
and my sentiments went ape.
He hauled in the machinery,
the hoses, brushes, soap.
He said it wouldn’t take that long,
which somewhat dashed the hope
that he would stay on for a while
(my heart then skipped a beat)
and raise my body temperature
as high as that steam heat.
© Susan Mahan, July 1999
The next poem Susan sent me for the guest blog is her favorite one about her husband and marriage. It won an Honorable Mention in the Pen Women’s Soul Making Contest in 2004.
He called me Princess
but he didn’t mean one who
who wore a Royal family tiara
or one in a fairytale
with a fancy dress and a magic wand.
What he meant was less obvious,
but more telling of our relationship.
When he called me Princess,
he could make the name sing with tenderness,
as if I were the only woman on the face of the earth.
Most times, for him, I think I was.
Most times, I needed to count on that.
He called me Princess with aplomb
if he wanted to defer to my judgment
or plaintively if he had reached the end of his rope
and wanted me to make the decision.
We trusted each other like that.
He called me Princess with an edge to his voice
if I was trying to get my own way,
and he thought I didn’t deserve it.
He called me Princess in exasperation
when I wore him down in arguments
that could have gone either way.
I was really good at that.
He called me Princess with the barest hint of irony,
knowing full well that I did not lead
the life of a princess,
but that we are often
kidding ourselves in life, after all.
It’s the way many of us get by.
Perspective colors everything.
We had one of our best laughs
when we learned that this guy at work
had a dog named Princess.
Nice company I was keeping!
That Thursday night in the hospital,
with those raging leukemia cells poised
for what turned out to be the final blow,
his last words to me had been:
I love you, Princess.
You look tired. Go home and sleep.
Although I never said it to him in so many words,
I knew I had married a prince.
© Susan Mahan, April 2001
The next poem “ After the Postmark” won an honorable mention in the 2005 Perigree Contest.
After the Postmark
I figure the quickest way is to fly,
but it’s going to cost me:
the boat ride to the airport and back,
one day’s parking,
a coach class ticket to New York City,
round-trip cab fare,
plus one day of vacation time.
Or, I could leave the house at 6 am and drive,
which would be cheaper
(mostly gas and tolls),
in which case I’d have to use two days of vacation time
because I’d be too tired to go to work the next day.
Either way, I can be in the publisher’s office
by noon or so when the mail arrives.
I’ll have my legs crossed
and my hand resting under my chin–
the very picture of nonchalance.
Nana said you’re known by the company you keep,
so I’ll be checking out
who else is in the waiting room, too.
No matter what happens behind the editor’s door,
my poems and I will still have each other
on the ride home.
© Susan Mahan, December 2000