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The Slake

blood scarlet, spider black, a keening in the wind, nearer - I ready

tall poppies bend heavy, sway among grasses in a farther meadow

their breath becomes my breath, I become moon absolute

Requiescat; soft body waiting, existence, a flame, I burn

a burn like opium night windows reflect flames, winter stars, ice

scintillations, frost glazes glass, crimson silver the sorrow of weary I strive

to keep the lull, the sate, the slake,

wholly to regain the sky, to rest in peace, adrift, holy

First published in The Slake August 2000

©Susan Butler



wet black ink

crows haunt the blood forest


a bone moon

©Susan Butler


My Witch

you were sleepwalking under a summer moon

and I followed

the air filled with violets

when you told me you were mine

I was burning pages and I caught my feet on fire

this traitorous world carries some of us away

a thief of chances promised me the summer sun

and I followed

until I found all there is there

is sand and blood

I was burning a man and I caught my eyes on fire

this sacrifice for a mere glimpse of my fortune

the incessant tide caught me, faithless,

and I followed

I swallowed memories of your hair in the wind

of wild days entwined like daisies

I was burning my life and

I was the fire the whole time

I’m coming home

you were my witch

you taught me

there are a thousand moons

and all of them mine

My Witch first published in Prismatica Magazine Issue 6 Fall 2019

©Susan Butler



beneath the reaching hazel tree

a sweet witch's spell we tangle in a summer charm, humming

in her shade then, we sleep

two of us, reaching, winding, wanting

windows wide to white light, curtains fly our same wet London sky

on the down then, we sleep

winding dunes, far north of Amsterdam, we

flee with the wind, with the sea, with the seconds bitter cold, still colder

tomorrow then, we wake

Wake first published in Coffin Bell July 2020

©Susan Butler



Il y a une histoire dans le ciel de novembre

d’une tempête d’indigo bleu orageux,

des corbeaux sanctifiés qui volent

pendant que les feuilles jaunes dégringolent

à travers la lumière perlée de neige

contre l’espace violet,

et comme je crie,

je crie comme si j’étais brûlée en cendres,

comme si je prouverais à l’automne que

je le connaissais en son grenat et or ;

j’y étais avec lui

une fois en vie.

J’étais en vie, en vie.

November Sky

There is a story in the November sky,

story of a storm of indigo and grey, of the way

hallowed crows fly

while yellow leaves sail like pain through pearl snowlight

across violet space

and of the way

I cry, as if burned to ashes, as if to prove to autumn

I knew her

in her garnet and gold,

I was here with her.

I was alive,


©Susan Butler



Because you said so,

I changed my name

to iron, plate, scrub, dig, deliver, shame.

At first I became a dead bird, hollow boned and lighter

and lighter with time,

then, dried petals, barely visible, a

mote of dust, and then, then an ember.

Flagrant, irreverent

particles of me began to flake, to rise skyward, to phosphoresce;

irrelevant fragments fell

back to the earth.

I am coming for everything

you denied me.

I shine above the clouds, above the mountains, above the rain,

daughter of the morning,

my particles becoming waves, bearing terrible

blinding light.

I am the brightest of the stars.

If you see me now, you will see the depth

your darkness buried you.

If you see me now, you will see no more.

Yet I’m still learning to forget

that you said it was I who was the adversary.

My name is now

birdsong, summer sunrise, morning star, blue sky

because I say so.

Morningstar first published in Prismatica Magazine Issue 6 Fall 2019

©Susan Butler


Les Rêves de la Lune

La lune d’août rêve de fleurs lourdes parfumées et d’oiseaux vivement colorés,

de plages exotiques et de jardins d’émeraude éclairés par sa lumière.

Elle rêve de papillons de nuit ayant les ailes éphémères bien baignées au clair de lune.

C’est une symphonie de fragilité, de la vie et ce qui repose en dessous, son contraire.

La lune d’octobre rêve de chauves-souris légères et de trous noirs du temps pervers,

de la chute des feuilles teintées de rouge mordant mais qui de nuit ont l’air de fantômes argentés.

Elle rêve de nos mondes distincts qui meurent et se réincarnent de la terre fertile au clair de lune.

C’est une symphonie de ruine, de la vie et ce qui pourrait la surpasser, nos envies hantées.

Dans le noir j’ai rencontré un bel homme rusé qui ne rêvait jamais, jamais.

Le cœur vide dans sa puissance meurtrière n’était figé qu’à la colère.

C’est le cauchemar qui rôde dehors, la grande faucheuse qui nous noierait au clair de lune.

C'est voleur de l’esprit de l’esprit à l’âme rancunière, aussi froid et mortel qu’une nuit glaciaire.

Je rêve de ce qui n’a jamais été et je rêve de ce qui ne sera jamais.

Je rêve qu’il m’aimait comme il m’a dit qu’il m’aimait, et je rêve de ce qui ce serait d’être aimée.

Ma chère lune qui rêve les beaux rêves la nuit, je rêve tout autant que toi,

moi, une femme qui dans mes rêves se noie.

©Susan Butler



Je suis sorcière –

celle aux sorts sauvages que je vous dévoile ;

mes charmes tombent comme les abeilles sur les fleurs épanouies

le jour où je l’enterre sous la terre et je le fuis.

Je suis sirène –

mes yeux contiennent la mort des étoiles ;

je chante avec la langue du miel aux échos affamés

et je noie la mer claire elle-même d’une voix déchaînée.

Je suis djinni –

un souffle en apesanteur qui met les voiles,

je hante, le désir fiévreux qu’on arrive jamais à saisir ;

elle de vos rêves éphémères, qui sont aussi essentiels que l'air qu’on respire.

Déliée du fardeau écrasant de l’homme, le cœur vibre ;

femme d'une espèce farouche, je ne veux qu’être libre.


My Dead

Mouth frantic and wide, teeth of razor blades, saw blades,

in the night, in my bed, she chews my legs down to bloody raw meat

stark bones between feet and thighs

until she shrieks at me what I do not know

as her jaws stretch and clack,

but it is pain.

Skin of shadow blue, veins showing through, gaunt and gut-wrenching, beautiful,

he lounges at my door, thumbing thin the cover of a leather journal in thin hands;

he watches the hours of night and silence slip into early morning,

he watches the dawn come until he fades with the stillness to rays of pink and autumn,

and he whispers to me only,


My dead want vengeance for the ways I’ve made them suffer.

My Dead first published in The Horror Zine January 2020

©Susan Butler


Ghosts of You

You left many ghosts

in my care.

You left the ghost of

your voice, your

rage the thunder in my ears

that shakes me unexpectedly in the dark.

Your ghost comes out of my mouth

when I speak of myself.

Freak, you say, Failure;

those names like hexes you spoke at me,

always threatening something more.

You left many marks

engraved in my skin, still etched

on what is left of me, on what I haven’t yet peeled away

to erase your touch, your every touch, your marks

the ghosts of fangs

and venom.

You left ghosts of your hands,

bruised the throat of my hope

where you strangled it, wrung it


your handprints remain

where you twisted my goals into grievances.

You left one of your ghosts

in the corner,

in the space where I always hid from you

until the day you found me.

This ghost stands there still, still and hot,

all eyes,

the way you stood over me like a disobeyed god.

Your boot prints appear and disappear, laden ghosts

crushing down my bones

to unimportant grime beneath your weight, your weight

somehow less heavy

than the fear tightly packed inside my chest.

You left many ghosts

in my care.

But these ghosts of you

are only half of what you were,


only your echoes, your aftermath, the nightmare

of you,

not you,

and this is my relief.

Ghosts of You first published in The Horror Zine January 2020

©Susan Butler



I have wrapped myself in cinnamon and cedar.

I have filled my body with honey drunk by moonlight.

My feet are oiled, henna stained with lotus blossoms, my hands swarm with bees

who whisper, sah, the sound of the wind chasing the sand.

I have eaten gold and opened the eye while borne on the backs of blue scarabs

who summon me, Star of Egypt.

Recounting the days when I was bought and sold,

I throw your lies back to you from the scale, one by one by one,

until my ears ring with the song of all women before and after.

Floating like myrrh, I stretch my open bones to the bright stars,

to the immortals,

and now I am sure you can never touch me.

Knowing what I know now

I would never let you enslave me

as the price for beautiful days

not even to become the one I am.

Though you tore out my tongue and stole my fingers, yours was a secret I would not keep.

Dignity first published in Cauldron Anthology Issue X Cult Winter 2019

 ©Susan Butler


Sah, the ancient Egyptian word for mummy, means dignity, nobility.

The Egyptians called the circumpolar stars the immortals; they were always visible, always watching.

The Star of Egypt is Sirius.


Not Telling Tao

How do we breathe?

by becoming breathless

wind, black dog

She ran madly and now,

beneath broad oaks,

only breathing, she is still;

her mind

follows bergamot.

How do we see?

by resting our eyes

a lemon tree

Nuit étoilée de St. Rémy, scry

clear fear in each quiver, in

one quick absence of shadow.

Champ de blé aux corbeaux


fast black

How do we hear?

by expecting silence

an exhalation of seconds

torn away as maple leaves whipped by wind

Cold stones of earth whisper in the first tongue of the birds, sibylline.

dark, one footstep, the thunder of absence of sound

Something sinister stands still in the hall –

the grisly, syrup-sweet regret of the brigand, the turncoat,

your love

Such a wish to breathe.

How do we know?

by not knowing how

qu'amas l'aura

E nadi contra suberna -

qu'ieu no me puesc ni voill a vos cobrire

Ask me the way.

the way is the way we go


from lines of Arnaut Daniel in Canto IV, 13th century, in Langue d'Oc, Occitan

who gathers the wind and swims against the torrent

from lines of Dante Alighieri in Purgatorio, 1308, in Langue d'Oc, Occitan

that I cannot and will not hide me from you


Not Telling Tao first published in The Slake October 2000

©Susan Butler


A Dream Begins

A dream begins with a young girl who thinks herself a witch,

with moonlit nights and explorations of bright possibilities,

a sounding of futures so as to plumb the brightest one and shy from the misstep.

She made you charms when she was young

while you stole away her voice and her choices.

She held still when you sliced your words across her skin.

She kept smiling, this child, when you hung her

because you were all she loved, all she knew.

A woman then, she raided the past for the one small thing she missed, a change in the air,

a faltering, a feather, for any

card unturned or omen glimpsed yet unheeded, for the chance to say: Freeze.

There, that. That is what I did not see. That is where I mistook,

where I took

the wrong path, where my gifts fell, where I


But that was long ago and now the undone bones of distant music poke through her threadbare skin.

The eyes of a thousand birds peer from the weeds of her hair. Sobs

of sorry bees echo beneath her frail mask and in age she wanders toward the sea with blinded eyes.

Or she is simply the witch you burned.

And then it ends.

But the sweetest words are a dream begins.

A Dream Begins first published in Cauldron Anthology Issue X Cult Winter 2019

©Susan Butler


Into Thin Air

From a distant life,

from a thousand miles away,

I recall the innocence of your hands.

I remember the way you held onto me as if to keep from falling away,

the way you reached out for me as if to save yourself from drowning.

This is all I have saved of an innocence when I did not know

your feral malice would sear me into cinders of bone, one day

your fingers would stretch and ache to choke like tendrils of seaweed.

In silence I was nearly tangible

but as I spoke, you alone became immuring stone.

I recall the sharp rage of your hands; born

to tear the voice from my throat, to bury me, snuff me

still, so I,

I dissipate into air, ash, autumn sky.

life slips into the air - blades of yellow leaves rain through slips of perilous sun

someone sleeps on the ground - something slips from my hands

breath escapes, never caught again - you did this

Soon only one of us will drown in thin air and still

love is not war no matter how bloody you make it.

Into Thin Air first published in Ink in Thirds Issue 9, February 2017

©Susan Butler



The voice that carried to me like an extinction

spoke only the language of war, painting horrors

with the caustic eloquence of rage in a fatal tongue

which you could not perceive failed to be human.

The war machine led you to desolation, so reduced

to an apparatus of your enemies, just another

foul, powerful spoil of ravages that you are lost to me, to me now

nothing but a raw wraith. Still,

battered by waves, I remain your bonfire

at the edge of the blood-red sea

so if your eyes caught my light from so far away

you might find your way home,

you might find your way home.

Wraith first published in The Horror Zine January 2020

©Susan Butler


Where the earth is hard

My field is covered in stones. The earth is hard here

and flowers will not bloom.

It was only me and him, that wordless summer. We tasted the grapes from the arbors,

watched the heavy globes ripening sungolden.

In the evening, my father and I ate sunwarmed tomatoes right from the garden

held like apples in our hands while his father's peonies swung heavy with bees.

We'd been digging stones from the field all day

and clearing brush from the woods to burn under the bright August sky.

At night, I burned marshmallows fat as the moon while he burned pages of his novels.

Ashes on fire

twirled in the dark, turned into fireflies, into stars,

some of them falling

back to his earth.

It was a different world then, in a summer silent like the burning sun,

and I fell asleep in the grass feeling the earth turn under the stars.

I’d like to know whose eyes they have, to know

how it would feel

for my tongue to say without thought:

This is my brother

This is my sister

how it would feel

for a holiday to come and invite them in,

how it would feel

for my heart to know

a comfort there.

Where the earth is hard and flowers will not bloom,

I have many stones to tend.

But two of my graves are too small,

too small to hold as vast a thing as death, to hold the terrible space

left behind.

All the other holes in my earth may be larger but not greater,

and though I still call their names

none of them can comfort me here.

So here I remain,

left, the last, alone.

©Susan Butler

For my brother and sister with love.


Sans mur

je ne vivrai que

sans mur sans barres

ni épée ni bouclier

contre tes mains

Without walls

I will live only

without walls without bars

neither sword nor shield

against your hands

©Susan Butler


لقد رأيت الحرب

لقد رأيت الحرب


انه كان سيف الضغينة

في الريح

رأيت الدم على يديك

الأمور ليست كما كانت

كنت تعتقد أنني كنت بحزن بالغ عندما غادرت؟

واود ان ابكى فرحا

عالمي أصبح أكثر غنى من أي وقت مضى

لدي الحرية. لي إسمي الخاص

سيصبح العالم اكثر اشراقا فى غيابك


سوسان بتلر

I've seen war

I've seen war.

Your malice,

it was a sword of spite

in the wind;

I have seen the blood on your hands.

Things are not as they were.

You think I grieved when you left?

I want to weep with joy.

My world has become richer than ever before;

I have freedom, I have my own name.

The world will become even brighter in your absence


©Susan Butler

. Contents

• The Slake

• Ritual

• My Witch

• Wake

• Novembre           • November Sky

• Morningstar

• Les Rêves de la Lune

• Libérée

• My Dead

• Ghosts of You

• Dignity

• Not Telling Tao

• A Dream Begins

• Into Thin Air

• Wraith

• Where the earth is hard

• Sans mur              •Without walls

• لقد رأيت الحرب

• I've Seen War

• الشعر العربي والترجمات

• Arabic poetry and translations

. US Publication Credits (this page only)

The Slake

   The Slake

   Not Telling Tao

Ink in Thirds

   Into Thin Air

Prismatica Magazine Issue 6

    My Witch


Cauldron Anthology 10: Cult


    A Dream Begins

The Horror Zine

    Ghosts of You

    My Dead


Cauldron Anthology


. See All Publications


الشعر العربي والترجمات                      Arabic poetry and translations

الأيام الصيفية المعتدلة انتهت

العواصف الرعدية تقترب

أنا وعباد الشمس ننتظر مصيرن

doux jours d'été disparus

orages se rassemblent

les tournesols et moi

on attend notre destin

sweet summer days lost

thunderstorms gather

sunflowers and I

await our fate

رعد في الخريف الأحمر

صراصير الليل يغنون

الهدوء الذي يسبق العاصفة النيلية

سوسان بتلر

tonnerre d'automne rouge

grillons chantent


avant l'orage indigo

thunder of red autumn

crickets sing


before an indigo storm

©Susan Butler