Skip to content
Back to issue
From: Vol.04 N.01 – Where to feel now

Three poems

by Susan Tichy

‘In country that is rough, but not difficult, one sees where one is and where one is going at the same time’ (Nan Shepherd)


As rock speaks to any

trained or curious eye:


someone else

sometime else


laid down words—

thin sheets or thick—


something broke them

lifted, pressed them


here: each rippled sand

each pebble clenched:


motion rendered

visible, in red boulders


thick with clasts, a wild

conglomerate, something made


of other things where

‘pain and suffering shape


the mind,’ a quite implausible

‘up above’ where wind hammers


worlds together: convenient

and bleak


reduced to brash or

lichen crust as brute matter



a mystery thick


as contour lines on an old map

—called reticent


or maybe clitched, or

‘looking back down


the path to the sea’

—I meant seabed


a fossil storm just

part way up


to paradise—look here:

a shallow dip in rough scree


‘where water comes gradually

into focus’ only because


it trembles: that is wind

speaking softly


felt by those who carry pain

as others carry


talismans, a descendental



to walk all day in pursuit

of fear—I mean


to corner it, trap it, parse it

thumbing a rock


of green/black waves

touching light


in the form of leaf

time in a metamorphic


stone: ‘and who

with any sense


can’t be interested

in that?’—the sheen


the shades, the Gates

of Delirium


sandstone, sandwort

iron oxide


thought or spasm

touch or word:


where a breeze

crosses pain flutters


muscle, ligament

sediment, sentiment


trees bent flat

by wind and snow


skirling waves

of rock uplifting:


try to stand there

try to find


a there exactly

touching here


a timberline

so crystal clear


so free of pity

free of dread


and all the lakes

that live there still


as wind.


Avalanche Theory


Not cross-section but snow cushion

Not snow cushion but wind slab

Not wind slab but depth hoar

Not depth hoar but deprivation

Not deprivation but detriment

Not detriment but punishment

Not punishment but pillory

Not pillory but armory

Not armory but memory

Not memory but milkweed

Not milkweed but fireweed

Not fireweed but free fall

Not free fall but base fold

Not base fold but firn snow

Not firn snow but snow plume

Not snow plume but speed of sound

Not speed of sound but surge of air

Not surge of air but line of fracture

Not line of fracture but alabaster

Not alabaster but adamant

Not adamant but parchment

Not parchment but palinode

Not palinode but pine warbler

Not pine warbler but wind pebble

Not wind pebble but blunt pencil

Not blunt pencil but burned pillar


Snow rarely falls in a state of absolute calm


six sections from Suibhne on Eigg: A Dictionary of His Days and Nights


This sequence began during my residency at Bothan Suibhne/Sweeney’s Bothy on the Hebridean island of Eigg. A collaboration between Alec Finlay and The Bothy Project, the glass-walled, one-room retreat is the second in a series of artist huts in remote Scottish locations. Finlay has written: I was inspired by the ancient Gaelic legend of Suihbne/Sweeney, the 7th century poet-king who underwent a traumatic crisis in the clash and bring of battle, levitated, leapt, and took to sleeping in a thorn bush. His war-torn exile in the wilderness became a way to interrogate the wild mind, hutting, dwelling, survivalism, protest, and island culture. In some tales, Suibhne found brief refuge on Eigg, the farthest point in his wanderings. In keeping with the limits of island resources, the poems are composed using the Analytic Dictionary procedure (created by the Oulipo’s Noël Arnaud) in which each word must be generated from letters of preceding words arranged in a prescribed and compact graphic.




An inch of silver light. A narrow danger, illegible intent, or an amorous arc in low, gray water. Then rock nest, hump-backed, veering high above raw, green edge. Tender yarrow opens at evening. Reach wild rest.




A salt hut under island’s black headland. A nervous eagle, unafraid of northward-slanting light. An empty eye, an anger, a lift: tensing. In doubt, he listens, arcs away as rising gulls turn east.




Sea-ash. Light-talk. Eye-sting. If island air is a hard glance, a low hut is home to kelp and thistle.




A haven under thorn. A northward hum. To view the danger is to own the edge. As echo, as ebb, so rest and rage will near, return. Narrowly.




Its arc is its reach. Like a raven over open water, the eye reads its exact path. Or, as a compass alters without effort, so an echo touches a cliff. Double or nothing: in the enemy’s hand, a single rock.




A test of hope, its opposite is rage. Naked, exiled, his only path is ascent, but angle, like spear point, pierces. Gnawing, kneeling, torn, exhausted, he owns his own ending, scents his own death. Imagined terror: an exact equal.

Published: January 2017
Susan Tichy

Susan Tichy’s most recent books are Trafficke (2015), Gallowglass (2010), and The Avalanche Path in Summer (forthcoming), all from Ahsahta Press. Currently writing poems on mountains, coastlines, and island edges, she teaches at George Mason University, & when not teaching lives in a ghost town in the southern Rocky Mountains.

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.