Four Poems by Susanna Spearman


If I could go back to my birth and name myself,

I would be called

something like



debris mixed with driven snow


a dead branch protrudes above a vast wilderness of green.

Or maybe I would give myself

a good, strong Bible name like



Our Lady Babylon, mother of the antichrist.

That way the most devout around me

would not be surprised by 

my wrath, my haughtiness,

and all the sticky blood on my hands.

They tell me Susanna means grace,

it means Lily of the Valley.

My mother chose my name like a prayer,

chose the spelling that only uses

letters soft and round.

I ask them,

if the name Susanna is not a sibilant betrayal 

of all of my animal?

But I was born in the ’90s.

People didn’t name their daughters

things like 

tick full to bursting with blood


oak half-dead with rot.

They named their girls things like

Ashley like gerber daisy like

purple feather boa and a sequined hat.

My real name is

the beautiful thing about crumbling brick.

I am

train-trestle rust.

I am


I am

anything wholesome about decay

and everything ugly about love.

I am

the hunger that creeps into your body

as you drift to sleep.

I am

the media naranja that is left behind


all things that are complicated by sugar.

However, as I read this poem to the river,

the wind off the water reminds me

that the Lily of the Valley is a

hardy desert plant

and lonely.

It reminds me that grace is about strength

not surrender.

The wind off the water reminds me

that all my pain is truth

and so is all my glory. 


Letting nature have her way with Stone Mountain

After Kara Walker and Ari Marcopoulos

(CW: racial violence, white supremacy)

they call it geographical anomaly

call it history


those of us who know the truth

call it things like

wound, deepening wound


dynamite manifesto

it’s too late for Stone Mountain

a few more explosions and

this geographical anomaly would crumble into

the ubiquity of man-made ruin

we say let the kudzu take it 

kudzu, a different famous southern


carried here across the sea

roots, bodies and roots

buried in the red southern dirt

southern forests, southern stone

mountains, southern food, southern

mouths — stretching too-wide around

southern lies, like 

a hero’s death like


of burning crosses

dynamite is indigenous to

this place


like destruction

and it cannot heal this 


let the green swallow this

mountain and make her beautiful

and wild and honest

let the land soak up some of this blood this

mountain an offering to

Black Jesus

to the holes in his hands

wound, deepening wound


dynamite manifesto

he would change this land’s name


Roll Away this Stone


and we will sing

O Death where is your sting

O Lies where is your tongue? 



fifteen years ago

a small hole blossomed

in my sternum. doctors marveled

at the increasing softness

of my lung-house. my bones

perforated and became porous. 

there is no name

for this condition of

becoming a bird.

no name for the talons

pushing through my knuckles,

the hard black quills piercing

from my follicles. no name

for the way my mouth is now hard and broad,

and I weep as my vulva expands

for egg-children I have no intention

of hatching.

fifteen years ago

my father told me it would be easier

to love me if I was a light-weight thing,

something more feathered and quiet. 

something that would fly away

with the nearest windstorm, leaving him

in peace, and

my body answered slowly,

by becoming a bird

saying –

love me love me love me now


New Theology

A bell rings somewhere nearby

some kind of church

some holy hallway

where quiet is the mandate

where even whispers

echo echo echo each other

I sit a half mile away

surrounded by green and books

and quiet

and I feel the bell discordant as it

dongs a song whose words

my body no longer remembers

the eight year old girl inside me


with memory of Bible drills

and feeling too big and bright

for those high and holy ceilings

but she smiles

I smile with her

because now we know that God is green

and God is books and quiet

quiet because we want quiet

so we can hear God 

move through her green 


as the wind

Susanna Spearman (she/they) is a queer, Appalachian poet originally from South Carolina. They are an MFA student at Eastern Kentucky University’s Bluegrass Writers Studio with plans to graduate in summer, 2024. They live in central Kentucky with their partner, four cats, and senior chihuahua.