The Distance Beyond Sight / Susan Shaw Sailer


The Distance Beyond Sight

poems by

Susan Shaw Sailer

ISBN: 978-1-59948-816-5, ~72 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

Release Date: July 21, 2020


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For those who prefer to pay by check, the price is $18/book (which includes shipping and applicable sales tax) and should be sent to:

Main Street Rag
PO BOX 690100
Charlotte, NC 28227-7001


Susan Shaw Sailer lives in Morgantown, West Virginia. After retiring from the English Department at West Virginia University, she earned an MFA in writing poetry, and has published two books, The God of Roundabouts (Word Poetry, 2016) and Ship of Light (Port Yonder Press, 2013) as well as two chapbooks, COAL (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and Bulletins from a War Zone (also from Finishing Line Press, 2019).

Susan Sailer’s distilled, powerful poems are written against the American narrative of the happy family. This poet is that feared thing—a truth-teller. From the suffering of the natural world to the desperation of refugees, Sailer keeps an unrelenting focus. The world isn’t ordered or just, but it is cherished. Contemplating aging and death, Sailer finds beauty in the unlikely: a discarded Ferris wheel occupied by vultures, slowly turning in the wind. ~Anne Marie Macari, author of Red Deer

And What Has Been My Life


The guy-wire of a spider web
the first thrust out from the spider’s spinnerets
a line that bends with breeze yet stops a fly.

A spiraling from failure—of nerve, of health—
into what comes next. A prance for joy that buoys.
From petrified wood to ancient Greek,

Lambs Ear to poems. Some mumbles about god,
the soul, the spirit. Being too young, too old.
A springing toward what’s next, life as bouquet,

wilting, upright.



My Father at 50 Stands on His Head


Head down, toes up, my father executes
a perfect headstand. No paunch, no flab.
He invites me to time him; three minutes,

easy. I watch him eye the rug for the spot
he’ll claim. No pillow, he clasps his hands,
braces his crown, notches his knees on the vee

of elbows, begins the steady reach of feet
toward ceiling. The stopwatch shows two
minutes. No wavering in slim legs, no tremble

in his arms. Upside down, he smiles, three
minutes passed. Lowers his knees, sets them
on his elbows, touches toes to floor. He rights

himself, certain of the muscles he has never
needed to exercise. I’m 11. Never again
will I see my father stand on his head, nor

will I see him in control. The years of despair
are just ahead when he’ll be fired one final time,
drink to dissipate the fury and the loss.



The Emigrant


scrub pine and wild almond
a small gray bird
they were free
he’d served the sentence
his crime teaching
children their language
Kurds like him
living in Syria
he placed left foot
fought pain
left side of his body
weak from polio

and he was falling
falling again into the dog-kennel-sized room
soldiers had thrust him into
after he’d been spied upon
his school declared a traitor’s act
and so the tiny cell
where he could not stand
where he could only crouch
arms grasping knees
head on chest
12 hours      18       24
he feels urine leaking
he commands it
back inside
but urine spills
he is wet
the kennel is cold
no food
no light
after 72 hours he pounds on the metal door
I’ll sign anything
hand me papers or kill me now
the door opens
7 sheets of blank paper and a pen
he signs
in a land not his
his own land not his
grasping one low fir bough
a single drop of water
falling on his head
one drop
one drop
one drop



After the Meditation Retreat


The skeins on which I’d wound my wounds
unraveled through the lurch toward clarity.

If screens within screens had been my forte—
I remote behind them—I shimmered with access,

no bar between you and me, the dripline of one tree
extending to all trees. What I’d perceived as stains—

wine spots on the tablecloth, Loki’s paw prints
on cream carpet, a difficult friendship ended—

looked more like patterns in a larger whole
whose meaning arched beyond me. I didn’t ice

my past, didn’t toss it out like cinders from a fire.
I vaulted with it to a larger place I hardly knew

but knew that I belonged.

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