Two Poems: Irradiant & Moon Woman (Poetry by Susan Newark)
The following poems are from Susan Newark's upcoming volume entitled Poetry for the Masses. In 1957, Susan's mother suffered a severe radiation overdose, and "Irradiant" (written in 2007) is a tribute to her courage. "Moon Woman" (written in 1993) uses scientific metaphor to express a response to sexism.
Mother’s armpit grew a golf ball
As her belly swelled with baby’s need.
The doctors did what doctors do
Cyst or what—they never knew
But the treatment was . . . Proceed.
Mother did what patients do
She let them have their way
With one exception to degree—
And suffering ball until she bore,
She spared them only me.
Treatment was her greatest fear.
She had lived through World War II—
A critical thinker in a world of sheep
Who grasped the nuclear coup:
A mushrooming outcome no more heroic
Than the dead six million Jews.
She still, embalmed in English sleep,
Ducked German bombs and shrapnel
But saved herself with hope alone,
Until doctors did what doctors do—
They massively malpracticed—
And the war became her own.
The fallout ravaged its stolen soil
Like a clandestine agent who,
Creeping from town to town,
Stirs secret seeds of upheaval
While defenses are all down.
The conquered did what conquered do
Assimilating the enemy.
A covert army in phosphorus suit
Whose duty was never derelict,
They fired ammo without a sound
And unlike troops on typical ground
Were impossible to evict.
Mother did what mothers do
With a meltdown queer to bear,
Grieving unborn babes aborted and
Loving me more for each one dead,
She wrote and painted and protested too
As their spirits entered me instead—
I, the cosseted child unaware
Indulging multiple me’s inside,
While she flung optimism in the face of despair—
Until the night she died,
Mother did what mothers do,
Pursued the glow of demise like a dare
And camouflaged the burns of negligence
So I hardly recalled they were there.
The man in the moon is a woman,
Her comic character mouth a lopsided “O”
Under stress-blotched eyebrows melting a face
Totally in shadow nearer Father Sun than Mother Earth.
Father has many wives and offspring
But she is Mother’s only child
Held at less of a distance.
When new she is Daddy’s little girl
Learning what to expect
And in first quarter she gets it.
Unlike Mother she appears barren
But men want to conquer her anyway.
Vying to be first, they land and plant their flags
Taking all they can carry when they leave.
Recognizing Mother, she comes between her parents,
Moving on when only Mother suffers
As did Mother in trying to protect her,
Only to render her invisible.
But their mutual darkness
In cycles different but the same
Strengthens rebirth uneclipsed by dominance.
Then she is full, unafraid to reveal personal scars.
Exhibiting three trillion attacks on all her kind,
She survives to show them; volcanic underneath,
She expands her surface until relief comes.
Brilliance now evident, she ignores Father’s accusation
Of her having stolen his, for her movement is inside
And even now observers see only half the surface.
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The first photograph is of Susan's mother Pearl, taken in Scotland around 1954. The second is "Moonrise," taken by Susan's son Neal Matthew through a telescope in 2010.
All photography and texts are copyrighted to Susan Newark and are protected by Digimarc invisible watermarking and online image tracking.
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