2021 Winning Poem – Inspection by Susanna Lang

Everything has always been more fragile than we thought,
even if we did not want to see the hairline fractures,
how doors hung crooked in their frames.

Even the thread, translucent as a spider’s web,
that loops the hours together, can be torn, time
stopped. When you hook your keys to your father’s

long chain, it catches on doorknobs and cabinets.
The links release their grip, and where did you leave
your pliers? When it happens again

you return the chain to its box. Elsewhere in our city,
mortar crumbles between the bricks. One strong gust
brings a second wall down in the church

where Dorsey made his music, where Mahalia sang.
Fire took the first wall, blackened
the stones in the walls that remained.

That was years ago, and nothing’s been rebuilt.
No way to tell if the corner grocery is open
or closed, plywood darkening the windows.

Now we must learn at last to make repairs:
bricks can be laid again, plywood removed
so the light shines in. With the right tools

your father’s chain can be strengthened, the links
persuaded to hold. When the wind tears down
the spider’s web she starts again, fastens each strand

to its anchor, works from the outside in. If the wind returns,
so does she, pulling the bright threads from her body.

Susanna Lang’s chapbook, Self-Portraits, was released in 2020 by Blue Lyra Press, and her translation of Baalbek by Nohad Salameh is forthcoming in 2021 from L’Atelier du Grand Tétras. Her third full-length collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was published by Terrapin Books (2017). A two-time Hambidge fellow, her poems and translations have appeared in in such publications as Prairie Schooner, december, Delos, The Literary Review, American Life in Poetry and The Slowdown. Her translations of poetry by Yves Bonnefoy include Words in Stone; she is working with Souad Labbize on new translations. More information at www.susannalang.com.