Monday, March 18, 2024

Susan Cowger*

Susan Cowger is a poet and artist living in Cheney, Washington, and is the author of two poetry collections: Slender Warble (2020, Poiema/Cascade) and her new book Hawk & Songbird.

What makes this publication particularly sweet, is what the poet has gone through to get here. While the rest of us were anxious about how the pandemic might change our lives, Susan Cowger received her diagnosis — blood cancer: multiple myeloma — an incurable disease. She says,
-----“Like a fledgling careening from the nest, my mind shrilled a frenzy
-----of questions: whywhywhy? No answer. From vertebral collapse to
-----cancer to brain tumor to brain abscess to stem cell transplant,
-----one after the other, I did not find the answer to why. I found
-----Presence… [an] awareness of God I could almost touch: strength
-----embodied standing over me; an ever-watchful eye keeping vigil
-----whose single glance could dash away fear; silent invisible
-----protection, care, love … certainty. God’s Presence alone makes
-----the horrific journey worth every minute.”

Although twenty-five-hundred miles away, I walked with Susan, as one of her many companions in prayer, and am grateful she now has the reasonable hope “that maintenance medicine might keep [her] well enough to eventually die of something else.” I have also been able to partner with her as the editor for both of her full-length poetry books.

Susan Cowger will be one of our readers at the Poiema Poetry Series reception at the Festival of Faith & Writing (on Thursday, April 11th at 7:30) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The following poem is from Hawk & Songbird (2024, Poiema/Cascade).

She Says You Get What You Get

It’s windy on the porch
She props a gimpy leg on a wooden chair
exposes it to sun----She says you get what you get

Ever mumbling to God for attention----something like
look at me look at me and oh wow there it is
another bruise blooming just below the knee

She turns her face to the sky----and draws
a patient breath----In prayer-like motion
she smears salve over the parch of skin
a pauper’s salvation

where pity for a sick thing takes on something akin to
gladness for some attention----Despite the defect
now it’s hard to hate
what she loves----The broken parts
she hands back to God

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Susan Cowger: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.