Pugna Saeculorum

I picture us then like trapped birds – ricocheting against the walls and each other. Biting and clawing and trying to escape, but unable to do so in the chaos.

Our shouts drowned out the sounds of rain against glass, of cars below, of trains passing. All we heard was our own words echoing cruelly back at us, reverberating until the very air felt thick with rage.

It’s funny, isn’t it? How brief the path from hurt to anger. My hurt began in the pit of my stomach, dark and heavy – but was quickly engulfed in a white flame of fury that rose through my chest. It nestled at the base of my throat, hurling spite and meanness through my lips.

Your hurt followed suit.

A red mist tinged the corner of my vision. My fists were clenched, my jaw taut. I tasted blood once. I seemed to metamorph into something smaller, harder, more dense and compact – while you appeared to take up more space as time went on. You paced and flailed, throwing your hands up in exasperation, your body somehow becoming longer, larger, more spread out.

And so it went, hurt and anger, anger and hurt, like some massive undulating balloon shifting power back and forth. You could almost feel the gravitational exchange between us.

I don’t know how long we went at it like that – until we wore ourselves hoarse – before the tenor of our voices began to waiver, then fall. Silence filled the space more entirely than noise ever had.

It was as if the shouting made us weaker, like sails without wind. We collapsed, still panting slightly, refusing to make eye contact. Our gaze darted around the room as if searching for another battle. We sat tensed, posture not fully relaxed, still poised for a fight. But the ferocity of it had rubbed us raw.

All that was left was the ashes of our hurt, the burning embers of our anger.

We sat on opposite ends of the couch – on opposite ends of the world – and watched the embers glow.


Throwback Thursday: Senior Poetry Contest – The Final Poem!

Alright, y’all… here it is. The final installment of the three-poem series that won me the Senior Poetry Contest in 2007.

I know you’re probably dying of anticipation.

Your lips are plump and crisp, like purple grapes that dot the vine.
And when we kiss, I can’t help but to bite them in my mind.
And their juice flows thick and violet, down my chin and down my spine.

It puddles ’round my toes, and makes a sea of crimson waves.
And two porcelain flower pedals are the only things it saves.
And out of them, the ocean makes two tiny porcelain slaves.

The pedal-salves serve as your eyes, with two black circle-stains.
That gaze at me, and out the window sadly when it rains.
And they cry, because they’re being held by heavy, sightless chains.

They drape around your shoulder blades and dangle to the ground.
Shuffle dirt around your ankles – drag your posture down.
And wrap around your poor weak head, like a pitiful iron crown.

When you sleep, I run my fingers through the tangles in your hair
And I kiss them, like my children when they tell me life’s unfair.
You smile at me, and in my head I scream a silent prayer.

“Dear God, let the man be happy. Let his days run safe and long.
And when night falls upon him, Lord, I beg you. Keep him strong.
And may he never hear the words that litter my mind’s song.

Because his hands are like great diamonds with his palms against my cheeks.
And his voice could rattle mountains in the heavens when he speaks.
And because a single touch from him could haunt my dreams for weeks.

So I ask this in your name, Lord. Do consider this last plea.
Create his happiness a lock, and let me be the key.
I’ll ask nothing of you, evermore. Yours sincerely, me.”

And as I live life next to you, and watch events unfurl,
I’m reminded of a tale my mother told me as a girl.
When on her bed I’d sit with her, and by her leg I’d curl…

She would tell me of a woman who had loved a man to death
And had killed him with the deadly poisoned sweetness of her breath
Which was tainted with her love itself, and all its dangerous depth…

And so I retreat to watching as your eyelids flutter shut.
And I suppress the silent fire burning deep inside my gut.
I’m thinking thoughts about you… but I’ll never tell you what.

Throwback Thursday: Senior Poetry Contest, Part 2

Happy Throwback Thursday, readers!

For those of you who missed last week’s installment, we are recounting the three poems that I read during the Senior Poetry Contest during my final year of high school. I went on to win the contest… most likely because I was perhaps the only person taking the class because I was a legitimate geek, rather than just for an easy A.

Here is poem # 2:

I’m sorry – was I daydreaming?
I do that quite a bit.
Oh, what about? Like I would tell!
Well… this much I’ll admit.

There was a tree. And in its shade,
We lounged like ladybugs.
And our time was punctuated
By a dozen lengthy hugs.

We were by a lake, I think.
(I hadn’t gotten that far yet)
And we were reading Dorothy Parker
…Or Walt Whitman, I forget.

A picnic basket held our things,
Among them ham and cheese.
And we wandered over to our feast
While dusting grassy knees.

NO WAIT! We watched a baseball game.
And I asked, “Who’s on first?”
And you said something witty
And completely unrehearsed.

Then Mark Loretta got a run,
And then we got four more.
The game was legendary!
But… we didn’t know the score.

OR better yet, we walked the beach
With salty, windbown hair.
And we couldn’t look directly
At the water for the glare.

So we settled underneath the dock,
And watched the tide roll out.
We sat there for awhile, and well,
Then we talked about…

Oh – goodness gracious, I don’t know!
It’s all about the same.
I guess that’s just what I deserve
For playing the daydream game.

It’s a nasty cycle,
This imaginary life.
‘Cause you wake up – to the real world.
To death, and pain, and strife.

But I guess it’s better that way.
You know, when all is said and done.
What’s that saying? “Falls no shadow,
Where there shines no sun?”

Well, I’m back inside reality…
And my imagination’s shrinking.
But could you do me a favor?
Never ask me what I’m thinking!

Throwback Thursday: My Senior Poetry Contest

Hey there, readers!

It has been thoroughly wonderful sharing all my high school poetry with you. And the fun doesn’t stop here.

For this series of Throwback Thursday, I’d like to continue the poetry theme – but this time, recount the three poems that won me the Senior Poetry Contest.

Hang on a sec, there, tiger – before you get your expectations all high in the trees, note that  I’m pretty sure there was only one criterion for succeeding in the poetry contest: it had to rhyme.

Because these were performed out-loud, free verse was at a distinct disadvantage. That is the only fact to which I can attribute my win.

But nonetheless, venturing into these archives of my life has certainly been a fun little experience for me. I hope it has been for you, too.

Here was the first poem submitted into the Senior Poetry Contest:

While other women share the bliss
Of means to avoid loneliness…
I shift my weight, and bite my nails,
And watch their sensual exhales.

I have no gift, and know not how
To woo a man, and lift his brow.
And so… I talk. And talk some more,
Until his very ear is sore.

They say a woman ought to know
The proper way to give a show.
She bats her eyes, and parts her lips,
And when she walks, she sways her hips.

It all seems very easy, see –
To anyone who isn’t me.
I have no eyelashes to bat,
And… let’s be frank. I like to chat.

And so I sit, and watch in awe,
And on my fingernails I gnaw…
As every other girl on Earth
Let’s men determine what she’s worth.

Well bring it on, Saint Valentine!
If this is it, then I resign.
I need no male to gawk at me.
Those crazy girls need therapy.

So keep your romance, Nicholas Sparks
And Mr. Hottie’s suave remarks…
If boys don’t like me, it’s their loss.
I’m happy with my Hagan Daas.

And so, the next time a handsome guy
Approaches me, then I’ll reply,
“Oh I’m so sorry, but I’m already late.
My nails and I have got a date.”


Thank you, Wisconsin!

Throwback Thursday: More poems, but for the love of god no more cowboys

Okay, okay. I get it.

You’ve enjoyed my cowboy poems, I’m sure, but now it’s time for a respite. I know.

Which is why for this installment of Throwback Thursday, I bring you another poem… though, not of the cowboy variety.

In fact, this time I’m giving you a rare gift, dear reader – as this blog post will be exceptionally short.

(Do try contain your enthusiasm, please.)

This poem was written on New Year’s Eve, as we embarked on a journey from 2006 to 2007. I was at a party.

I had a crush on a boy who had a crush on my best friend, and allowed myself to be consumed with this crushing truth so entirely that I’m ashamed to say it might have ruined my whole evening. These were dark days in the journals of Susie Wittbrodt… dark days indeed.

I’ll spare you the surrounding woe-is-me journal entries, but I will share this little gem – scribbled into my journal in the bathroom of a friend’s house, while I pined over the exceptional hurt that is unrequited love:

His cigarette hung limp
Between a pair of grainy lips.
It bounced between them as he spoke,
Conducting snarky quips.
I pretended to palate his poisonous prose
As I pondered his dark silhouette.
But my ponderings wandered just under his nose,
At his dancing red-tipped cigarette.


Happy Throwback Thursday!

Throwback Thursday: Cowboy Poems, Part 3!

Oh hey there, readers. You’re in luck! It’s time for our next installment of Throwback Thursday, the most recent series of which recounts my childhood obsession with cowboys and my propensity toward god-awful poetry.

Are you sick of these yet?

Here’s another:

Three nooses swayed loose in the breeze like a sigh.
Three men stood informal for this brand of necktie.

Exists a trail, a quick inhale,
In the depths of the old frontier.
It houses dregs, and spider legs,
And sounds that bite your ear.

The path he chose, knew all his foes,
Was one of fear and dread.
And none would choose to walk that way
Who were not walking dead.

But ‘long the path, out broke the wrath,
Amongst the murky gray
Of a rider spent, and deeply bent
On revenge against those who betray.

A woman sat weeping against a cold floor,
Thinking maybe she’d dreamt that she’d opened the door.

She’d bid him to stay, in her courteous way,
And insisted he sit by the fire.
Her smile was sweet, and her tiny home neat
And her dress was of brilliant sapphire.

The rider, next morning, was first to awake,
And rushed home on a paranoid whim.
He had dreamt of his life, and his satisfied life,
But came home to none other but him.

His wife sat up straight, and did not have to wait
For the man at the door to react.
She assumed he would break every precious keepsake,
But alas, he’d left each one intact.

And what do you think any sane man would do,
Despite what the judges and laws told him to?

Upon the horses weighted back,
Two bodies rose and fell.
And all of the trees, like the poor horse’s knees,
Were submersed in a terrible hell.

The man in the front, who was drained from the hunt,
Slanted forward in bone-weary slump.
His bloody companion, whose breath now was still,
Rode as cargo on the horse’s bare rump.

The rider now sped, for just up ahead,
Lay a shovel and a hill
And next to them, a six-foot hole
Where he would dump his kill.

Three nooses swung loose as a clergyman prayed,
Three men were marched forward – and two were afraid.

Throwback Thursday: More Cowboy Poems

Happy Throwback Thursday, everybody.

For those of you who weren’t here for our last Throwback Thursday installment, this week I’ll be continuing with my series of cowboy poems.

I have to chuckle when I read these, because they very literally have no rhyme or reason. There’s no clear plot line, sketchy scenery descriptions, and usually a pretty abrupt ending because my brain started hurting trying to sculpt a cohesive rhythm. So I hope you’ll forgive my total lack of general storytelling etiquette.

But in any case, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying binge-walking down memory lane lately, so I’m gonna share. Here’s another:

A defined black silhouette cut through the brilliant orange sky.
It grew quickly as it neared where Dr. Kelly heaved a sigh.
The man rode hard as beads of sweat ran sideways ‘cross his face,
And fourteen miles away, made Dr. Kelly start to pace.

The woman stirred in bed, and doing so, let out a moan.
The doctor only shook his head and thought, “I should have known.”
The man on horseback yelled a slew of loud, impatient words.
The sky darkened behind him as he raced a flock of birds.

His horse was panting hard when that first star shone clear and bright.
Others like it took their place in the icy threatening night.
He shook the reigns again, last trace of purple drowning east…
The gap closed now to twelve miles, and Dr. Kelly’s fear increased.

The rim of his old cowboy hat was wet with sweat and blood.
The bottom of his boots and jeans were caked in orange mud.
His shirt was ripped, his jacket torn, his face upset and scared…
But Dr. Kelly stood convinced that he just didn’t care.

Another painful moan came from the woman on the bed.
The doctor wandered to her side and felt a burning head.
“There’s nothing I can do,” he whispered with a silent tear.
More followed with the blatant lie, “Your husband’s almost here.”

Eight miles away, a tired shadow pushed against the cold.
He’d been riding for hours, now, from the moment he was told.
The messenger had brought the news that made his heart stop dead.
“Your wife’s in grave condition, sir,” the poor young man had said.

And grave was too cheerful a word to apply in his wife’s room,
For death was hovering nearby, and toward her bed it loomed.
Six miles to go, the ride pressed, and screamed a silent prayer:
“Dear God, I know I’ve made mistakes, but this just isn’t fair.”

Throwback Thursday: Susie and her cowboy poems…

Hardly anyone I went to high school with reads my blog, but if they did they’d be rolling their eyes right now.

I may have mentioned my obsession with poetry in a previous post… and I believe I also mentioned how absurdly god-awful my poems were. What I haven’t discussed yet, was my perpetual fascination with cowboy-themed poems. (I was reading a lot of Zane Grey at the time.)

There was just something about the romance of riding horseback, kicking up dust and adventuring into the great wide nowhere with nothing but a bandana around your neck and a revolver at your hip.

It grabbed hold of my heart and hung on tight – as it did so many writers before me. And as such, my crude attempts at poetry began to assume the tropes of the Wild West.

In the next Throwback Thursday series, I’ll recount a few of the poems here… as long as I have your assurance, dear reader, that you won’t judge them.

(Note: None of them are titled. I’ve always struggled with titling things – a trait that has followed me into my current writing career. Also, I know I change tenses and I use adjectives instead of adverbs. I’m sorry, okay?)

Late at night, in the dark and the wet
When the light is teased and shunned,
There rides a man weighted down with regret
And the thick metal sheath of his gun.

He slumps on his saddle, tired and worn
His silhouette not but a clod:
A sorrowful cowboy whose jacket is torn
And whose morals are tragically flawed.

Yes tragically flawed are the morals of he,
Who sits in his hollow, on heaps of debris,
And grins as he waits for his poor enemy,
Yes, flawed are the morals of he.

A labyrinthine cavern, just miles away
Was where he’d established his lair.
He had good intentions, although I daresay
That his victim had hardly a prayer.

The hapless approached as his murderer waited
And as he arrived at the den
Sat a man with a pistol, all conscience abated.
A shot rang out once – then again.

Yes, two shots rang out that night, painfully clear,
And out of the cavern, two bodies appear,
The live one discernibly bearing a sneer,
Yes, the shots rang out painfully clear.

And now as he rides, he is ridden with shame
And can taste acrid guilt on his breath,
For he knows that he deserves all of the blame
For that miserable, undeserved death.


Happy Throwback Thursday, world!