Susannah Sheffer

Elegy for the rough draft

Praise the way it gave itself
up, first onto the dance floor,
ready and willing to be
anyone’s fool. Praise how it forgot
an umbrella, grabbed clothes
that don’t match, dumped
scraps onto the table,
let’s see what we’ve got.
Yes, praise the self-
love that allowed for such
daring, but praise also the
hunger, the underbelly, the
soft and the raw.
Praise the rough draft
for saying not only
this is what I am but also
this is what I need.



For the Record

I may have forgotten to tell you
about the letters I ate in
heaping spoonfuls
and how their noodle shapes
tumbled together on my tongue,
letting me know them for just that
while, so that I learned by
taste and feel, learned
by taste and feel how to read
what the world had to say

and I may have forgotten to tell you
how sweet and savory that process
was, how it gave me
what I needed, how no matter
whether I found it in sand or chalk,
finger tracings on window steam
or refrigerator magnets you could glide
like skaters, I would one day use
that rich, durable alphabet to
tell you about everything else.



Susannah Sheffer's chapbook This Kind of Knowing was published by Cooper Dillon Books in 2013, and her full-length collection Break and Enter was published by Kelsay Books in 2021. Her poems have appeared in Tar River Poetry, The Threepenny Review, Poet Lore, Briar Cliff Review, and other journals. She is a clinical mental health counselor who frequently works with people who have experienced trauma, and her book Fighting for Their Lives: Inside the Experience of Capital Defense Attorneys was published by Vanderbilt University Press in 2013. She lives in Western Massachusetts