From the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Last spring, I walked with you to the lilac trees.

We took home contraband branches of shadow

and scent as if we were the finest magicians

conjuring perfumes from tiny blossoms

that the Victorian women planted

to mark the loss of a child or a miscarriage.

I choose not to love you and so the globes

remained just broken remnants of minerals,

skeletons leftover from the latest skirmish.

Please don’t ask me to explain the Dictionary

of Obscure Sorrows. I couldn’t if I wanted to

but I know there’s an entry here for me—

something about the long hallways of

dormitories once the students depart

or the afterhours drinking in amusement parks

where you catch the shellacked eye

of the carousel horse and nod hello.

I’ve always desired a different life than the one I am living.

It’s an invisible cloak I wear like a fog-lit figure

in a Bergman film or maybe I’m more like the goat’s

cello in the off-center village of a Chagall painting

that tells me with blue certainty, you’re not alone.

SUSAN RICH is the author of seven books: Gallery of Postcards and Maps: New and Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry) and Demystifying the Manuscript: Essays and Interviews on Creating a Book of Poems (with Kelli Russell Agodon, Two Sylvias Press) are her most recent books as well as Cloud Pharmacy, The Alchemist’s Kitchen, Cures Include Travel and The Cartographer’s Tongue /Poems of the World (White Pine Press). Her poems have garnered awards from the Fulbright Foundation, PEN USA, and the Times Literary Supplement (London). Individual poems appear in Harvard Review, New England Review, O Magazine and Poetry Ireland Review among other places. Rich’s new collection, Blue Atlas, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. She is the director of Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women. Visit her at