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Susan Barker Allen
U.S.A/ New Zealand

Four Steps To Standing on a Horse - Penny Howard - 2014
Susan Barker Allen. I am originally from the USA and now reside in Wellington with my husband and three sons.

Leaving is an Occupation

Leaving is an occupation, an art
My chosen medium letters, guilty words for those I could not face,
Laden with “I’m sorrys.”
I’m sorry I can’t come back, I tried with everything, it does not fit, I was wrong.
I need to find a higher truth, myself, some space, a way, answers.
Is maturity barricading those exits? Knowing a letter could never explain away five year plans, house deposits, the water bill.
Is responsibility opening doors and not walking out? Only peeking outside and in the morning pushing them shut, trying to turn the lock for good this time. Because in the light of day it seems futile.
And at the end of the letter writing did I stop at the right time?
Was something clearer in those bright raining sparks of departure?
Could I have felt any more lying with you,
mattress on the floor, Nashville Skyline, humming in the background, your eyes all over me and I at 18 not caring what you perceived?
Escaping between the stacks with you in the university library when I was meant to be on the clock,
Climbing the rooftops, sharing cigarettes and peering into our neighbours' windows,
You whispering in my ear at a party “I like it when you make me jealous.”
Then the morning you rolled over and said “I spoke to my family and told them I have a girlfriend.”
I knew you had found the one angle we could not work.
Instead of returning after Christmas, a letter came in my place.
I only wanted those moments that the long-term would have suffocated, changed your easy nature.
Was it visceral enough standing alone in the woods,
Lying down at dark feeling frightened but so alive it was immortal,
Eyes closed in a dark sweat lodge with visions cascading,
The wise old man staring into my eyes and sating my heart with another kind of love until I thought it would burst, looking away when I was at the precipice stating “that is all you can handle.”
Instead of returning to the mountain, as promised, another letter.
Then a three day bender, at a farm, in the backwoods of Pennsylvania.
I only wanted those moments.
Should I have sprinted until my heart was wrung out?
Perhaps letter writers are safer running circles in neat neighbourhoods. Stopping, facing the sea, lost and disoriented for just a moment.

Drinking Shoes

I have my drinking shoes on, dirty converses, laced up tight, street shoes.
Sticking now to a beer film floor, standing with new faces, I met them yesterday.
Me:  (quiet and thinking, how much should I reveal?)
I roll a cigarette and suddenly it is all eyes, only thing to do is follow on.
So I finish up and walk out the door, lights and voices hit me
Wellington, New Zealand, CBD.
An old man is playing guitar across the cobblestone alley, as he looks up from his 6 strings I catch his gaze, “I understand,” he seems to whisper.
I lean against the pub wall and listen and somehow he is you.
6 wrong turns and I find the train, drunk I drop down on the seat, afraid to close my eyes and miss my stop. No more wrong turns.
Walk through the door of an unfamiliar house. The night is over and the morning will begin the same as always. The stage is how I left it, but the actors are silent. For a moment I can be singular.
I kick off my drinking shoes and think of you in your drinking shoes.
I picture you at a bar with many close friends, laughter roaring.
Southwest, Virginia, USA
Later, walking the tracks home. Possibly singing to yourself.
Audience of electric air and stars.