Pikes Peak Poet Laureate Project - Home
Current Laureate: Susan M. Peiffer
Susan M. Peiffer was inaugurated as the 5th Pikes Peak Poet Laureate on April 24, 2016. Susan will serve as Poet Laureate until April 2018.
Susan Peiffer is a published and nationally recognized poet who studied creative writing and theology at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. With graduate degrees from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Susan taught at a private high school in Delaware for six years, toured the United States as a poet, and then worked as program director for a non-profit in Philadelphia until 2012. Since relocating to Colorado Springs in 2012, Susan has become deeply invested in the local community. Currently executive director of Hear Here Poetry, she amplifies her intention to encourage all people to listen, write, share, and engage the world with their words. She facilitates workshops and classes on different aspects of writing and performance and hopes to help inspire the unique circumstances into which crafted poems arrive. Susan is eager to continue connecting different facets of the Pikes Peak Region through the shared experience of poetry.
You will never know a warm winter blooming into stone—the thousand levitating stars shedding their loose light
into morning or the way the sun is born blind—moves like warm fingertips across a child’s face.
You will never know the sound of A minor turning into G—the silence between those two points caving like a human spine
into a question mark & you will never be able to name the current president or the dark horse of a team making
their way to the Super Bowl—the day your son got married, the way he stood at the edge of the ocean, the atmosphere
melting behind him, his lips tilting into a smile. Yesterday, a woman out on probation plowed her SUV into a man
& 3 children. The woman could have been you, but it wasn’t you & you will never remember the years I took the spark plugs
from your car to save that man & 3 children—how I hid my keys & wallet at the bottom of the piano bench—the piano
I never played or knew how to play—the sheet music that made no sense, a random series of meaningless dots & horizontal lines—
I will never tell you of the rorschach blotched stars of sunlight bouncing off the inlet outside—their way of hypnotizing a human being if you stare for too long—or the morning after Christmas when the snow baptized the dunes & you & your sister slid
head-first into the numb arms of the Atlantic. You won’t remember me—too busy trying to still the earthquake in my hands—the fog
twistingaround my head—busy inhaling—busy forgetting—busy in my dark 1 room apartment w my dirty hair—blinds drawn
my back slumped—scavenging the carpet for a rogue pill—a flesh of ash—a dust of magic.
Meanwhile—a broken heart continues to invent its own vocabulary from a sleepless night—
a stilted crane tiptoes through the marsh outside as if the whole world should shift under its weight—
& I will sit at that damn piano & begin to play—not knowing where my fingertips are going—where I might end up
when no one is listening—each note—a shape willing itself alive in my hands.
It is so
born of the Spirit—
for an unremembered Name—
wrangle a swelling ocean
above a chamber of sailboats
in a murmured flight of starlings.
The Wind blows
where it chooses—
whether it moves as air
or air moves it—
it pirouettes as emptiness
it waltzes against the crawl—
I imagine all the prayers
swept under the pews
where the sermon is
served on a blank piece
of bread &
bathing in the spectral lines
of a hydrogen atom
finds a noose seductive
like that single blush of rain
in a hanging sky—
I would scour
that lifeless body—
to find that corpse—
—just to breathe
a sigh of relief
Do you know what it is to be starved for yourself? How long has it been since you tasted the place where you've come from--the place where you are Known and not simply Seen? What does Home even smell like?
My home smells like tangerines and briney water, like patchouli and salt from the sea--it's humid like sticky days in sundresses--like coffee and scrapple in the morning--like red wine and a crab cakes at night--like oceans of remembered mountains ancient before me, my appreciation relevant, but arrogant adolescent insult nonetheless--
Have you ever needed to go back to the city or the farm or the grocery or the diner that you came from?
This is the After. After you've tasted the cuisines of a thousand cultures--after the blend and spice of a thousand places--after you know when Want becomes Need and it is time to become familiar with what is Wholly Comfortable and life-giving and nurturing again--when you know it is time to go Home--
And then again--there is no certain way of knowing.
There's only the option to decide--
--and once you decide to follow through.
is all the ugly that comes
before we learn to butterfly—
dark cocoons precede dappled wings—
Huddled and damp
I pushed my way out
of our relationship.
I navigated doubt and desire
until I decided
to love you
with all of my intelligence.
I had an idea of myself
that was no longer true &
I could no longer sacrifice joy
to prevent myself from becoming
the woman I must next be—
we put up a good fight and lose.
we can only choose to let go.
is a small dark room—
simplicity & ordinary places
undone dishes & mismatched socks—
bearing witness to the locks we’ve used
to gate hate each other
is starting at the essential &
ending up there too—
it is the gentlest voice commanding
we acknowledge what is true:
You could not convince me to love you
the way you wanted me to.
We don’t always do the right thing
on the way to righteousness.
Being honorable is inconvenient—
having to look you in the eyes &
take it straight to the chin—
I broke my own heart
to stop fucking with your head.
Forgiveness isn’t cotton candy carousels—
it is carnival coffins colliding
in not so fun house hearts.
It is hard to have a conflicting set of emotions—
but it’s not as hard as I pretended it was.
We are the cracked pot
in the garden
we are growing from.
You have sustained my chrysanthemum—
defrosted my marigold—
watered every tearful snowdrop in winter.
You have loved me best
with a generous, hard, true,
right kind of love—
We were once.
And that is (not) all.
Remember while letting go—
Wanting to leave was enough.
This has been the longest sort of a short month—and I hope you have had time to be alone, but not much time lonely. We celebrated this month with Joe Hutchinson—the Colorado state poet laureate. Several local poets, including past laureates Price Strobridge, Janice Gould, and Jim Ciletti read their own poems and “Oh! The purple of it all…”
It was a celebration of Valentine’s day in the shadows of Pikes Peak. Sometimes we prefer our own company to anyone else’s and sometimes we are able to revel in shared intimacy with others. Love is transitional and changing and a choice—let us all attempt to be more charitable, truthful, and merciful with ourselves and with all those we encounter along the way.
[You will find Susan's poem "Dreaming DE" in her hand in the images attached below]
It is the middle of winter and I am back east at my cottage on a northern most cove of the Chesapeake Bay on the eastern shore of Maryland. I would love to diagram that sentence. It is snowing and the stillness is tangible for the geese have gone quiet. This home is under the migratory pattern of so many birds—but the Snow Geese, the Canada Geese, and the Starlings are my favorite. It’s best to put seed out just before dawn and just at dusk to draw the most curious creatures. There is a squirrel I adore—he’s a wee thing I call Reepicheep as he is spry and has no tail. He’s been here the whole year and hasn’t grown much bigger…but he certainly is quick. It’s a different world at sea level. It’s been sunless and dreary and cold—but there is peace. There is quiet. There is the constant variation of tides swelling in and out. There are journals and there are pens and there is curriculum to be written. There is a fire, red wine, and my dog. Winter is a time of underground and rejuvenation and rest—and I wish you all the best hibernation.
I went to the top of a mountain—
collected shooting stars in an old cigar box— laid them at the foot of your bed last night fireflies at midnight a night light to keep you company—
I quiet wondered if silence
tells stories of questions
I swung pendulum triplet counts
from tree-swing orchestrations—
—a soul filled with sentiments—
sediment on insomnia’s spiral pathways
to the shores of Delaware
where ocean sneezes tickled
the bottoms of our pants
& sleep was something
to our kisses—
You looked up at
a polka-dot explosion of sky—
saw a star with a slight shade of blue
& named it after my skin—
I wore short curly hair
& you held a holster for my lips on your jaw—
I picked up a seashell
the color of coming dawn
& held it at my ear
as silver dolphins poked heads up from waves & carried the wish I made to deeper waters—
We dove into the ocean
where freedom beat so strongly
baptizing us in salt water
and fishes clapping—
We tried to keep waking at bay
as long as we could
while the pesky neighbor of morning
crashed the party
& heaven played an encore
with the moon—
The sunlight wrapped around your smile
& I haven’t kissed anything as holy since— my lips still taste of salt & wonder & I will never let you go…
& saw us the next day
& the day after that
& thirty years from now
finishing each others’ sentences
in the middle of silence,
Believe me when I tell you—
you are here
when I am washing my hands
in the porcelain sink—
silver dolphins spilling from the faucet— back in Delaware for a brilliant fleeting moment—
Your name is just underneath my tongue
& with every line I can taste you.
You left a love letter on my body—
the note I’d withheld from myself—
the one you took
for safe keeping—
& if you’re ever dreaming—
walking that sacred place again
where seagulls become protectors
& sand a layer of skin—
if through your closed eyes
you think of my palm in your hand—
you will hear my wishing voice
in the last waves—
in the last seashells buried on the beach— whispering a promise—