Years ago a friend, Lynn McGee, said that she wanted me to meet a friend of hers, Susana Case, whom she thought was a wonderful poet, and not only that, but a favorite of hers. “You have to read her,” she insisted, and she meant it. When I did meet Susana a few years later—it seems like yesterday—I have to say we did get along immediately. Now a book of hers is recently out, and in these days of the virus when live readings where people gather together in a real room or space are not allowed, I would like to help to shout about it.
With a great title, Dead Shark on the N Train delivers what it promises, poems that on one level are very funny, and on another are not: there is a smile, even a laugh, but also something to think about. These poems make you aware of where you are and you often look around.
We do live in a new normal. The recording below is a Zoom reading on the Internet that Susana did. I made a Vimeo out of it. She was there and I am here and you are over there, dear reader. For me, John Lennon’s I Am A Walrus comes to mind:
I am he
as you are he
as you are me
and we are all together
Susana H. Case reads from Dead Shark on the N Train. What follows below are three of the poems:
Dead Shark on the N Train
Poor brown fish, beached
at Coney Island, then carried
in someone’s arms to the roller coaster
where another man thought it beautiful
and tried to transport it home, only
to abandon it on the subway,
and you know how it is
in New York City—nothing
surprises anyone. The car
reeked of dead shark, and passengers
took photos, debating
Instagram filters, when the conductor
asked everyone to leave
and closed off that train.
At the end of the line in Queens,
a transit worker plastic-
bagged the body and normalized the car.
I fled Queens when I grew up.
When someone on the #1 had a heart
attack and died, his corpse rode the loop
from South Ferry to the Bronx and
back to South Ferry twice. Like a man
in his habitat, he seemed to be napping.
Unlike the shark, no one put a Metro Card
under his fin, cigarette in his jaws, can
of Red Bull by his side for the journey.
Bonny Doon Beach
At the clothes-optional section
of Bonny Doon, we nude women
group together, looking as if
we’ve beached against the cliff wall.
The blissful call out, Bless you, sister,
and a man who claims he entered
the void without psilocybin
moves to touch me, not for vile purposes,
but to infuse me with God’s energy,
as he is its conduit.
I snarl, and he moves on.
From here, you can sometimes spot
a migrating whale, but today
it’s just the guitar solos of the newly
released “Comfortably Numb”
on a woman’s boom box, a woman
who cautions me to avoid Bonny Doon
at night, when the scene
changes to not just rip currents,
but the risk of assault, and it’s harder
to avoid the broken glass on the trail
that winds its way down to the sand.
mad, bad and dangerous to know
Niece of Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire,
Lady Caroline Lamb was described by Byron,
after a few hot months,
as an exaggerated woman,
another notch in his belt. He found
another lover or two.
Caroline sent him bloody clippings
of her pubic hair, bemoaned her fate
was his beautiful pale face.
She did not go quietly,
her mouth dripping venom.
Lady C put the affair in a novel, a volatile
tell-all. Her in-laws loathed
that indiscretion, thought they needed
to leash her, tried to ban her books,
have her declared insane.
Her husband finally left, taking his fetish
for flogging with him.
He became Prime Minister. She became
drinker—a bottle of sherry
every day (medicinal).
Sex, she decided, was a sin.
Lady Caroline forged poems in Byron’s name,
burnt him in effigy as she read
a rite of exorcism. Foucault’s link
between passion and madness.
It was her wayward childhood, she explained,
as she swayed with laudanum
laced with lavender oil.
I’m mad, she wrote.
Dead Shark on the N Train is published by Broadstone Books. You can check them out here: