The center of the house was on the edge

As if the universe (universal constant) had shifted

And we lived on the other side of the Mobius strip.

I would look to the west through French doors

That never opened.


Always I wanted windows:

a way out of the dove greys and wines

into the scarlets and umbers of the fall leaves

or the sparrow-winged spring

slicing skies of Michigan blue.


We looked across the table to the west,

as if we were behind time,

as if today had left us behind.


You gave me a crimson umbrella once

like one you had wept to own when you were a child,

never understanding why I was not ecstatic

to have realized your dream.


Every sunset rimmed the sainted mount.

It was where I learned to read in the morning,

my back to the yesterday of uplifted sea floor

proclaiming that once it had been something else

and someday it would be something else again.


Instead, hiding in the shadows of the sculpted carpet,

I longed to ride the wind-spattered rain

drumming its secrets against the window.

Nose pressed to glass, I

traced the gnarled black branchings of our family tree

generations of hollow women 

bent with fruiting emptiness.


And in the evening I faced the backside of today

With tomorrow at my back

In the wonder of back-lit clouds

And sharp edged granitic smudges


Still you peddle guilt like the umbrella vendor

and I barter six rain soaked panes

against the unbroken wall of your bitterness.


Making pictures of what wasn't

And what wouldn't be the center of my home

On the western edge held by

French doors that would never open for me.




 © Joe and Susan Finkleman




Overhead, Overheard

Walking, measuring time, tree by tree,


every thing does particular things.


He said that

we speak of trees doing particular things.

If time were measured by trees

would I hear you say

“I’ll be home at a quarter to tree”?

Overhead I hear the leaves unsettle

in a particular way .


I hear voices.

“You don’t want me.”

I hear a heart that can never be mended.

“You don’t want me.”

“Why did you say that?”

“Why do I have to go?”

and I hear,

“Come back.”


“You don’t want me.”

As the slow branches of time pass,

I see two women,

one trying to hold the other.

One saying “Come back, I love you.”

The other, “You don’t want me.”

“Why did you say that?”


My heart scars aching

 in the sudden change of weather.


Tree by tree as time slows

revealing the truth in

all that is useful is in the spaces in-between.

I remember you saying that to me,

that we define by what is

but we use by what isn’t.

Rooms are only useful when the walls get out of the way.


“You don’t want me.”

“Come home.”

But when the walls dissolve, what then?


Not only rooms, you said,

vessels too,

vessels are only useful inside

in the empty spaces.


“Why did you say that?”

Now I could see her face

I remember once climbing

atop the ruins of a fort:

an Iron Age refuge,

one square mile

at the top of this earthen structure,

carpeted with shards

of vessels no longer empty.

Sharp small terra-cotta kisses

that could pierce any heart.


“You don’t want me.”

Tears tearing my eyes

as I changed time

tree by tree

hoping one could comfort the other.


“Come home.”

I overheard myself say.

© Joe Finkleman


Today, I missed the sea for you.

It would not fit upon the page.

It would not fit within my water cup.


I folded its salty scent inside my summer jacket,

spilled its sun-warmed sand into my shoes.

I slipped the cry of whitened gulls beneath my singing tongue

and slid five roughened starry arms into my favorite pocket.


I’ve run all day among the dunes

and meant to bring them back.

Today, I missed the sea for you.


© Susan Finkleman



Joseph Finkleman was born in Hollywood, CA. He has a BFA and an MFA from the San

Francisco Art Institute, was a professional photographer for 20 years, and taught

photography and animation. Joe, who shows both photography and watercolor, characterizes

himself as a serious artist. Before art school, he was a literature major with a

minor in journalism. Along with the novel, a number of short stories and plays,

and a great deal of poetry, Joe has recently completed the libretto of an opera

(You Who Know,), which will be performed this season at Sac State.


Susan Finkleman began her delusional existence as a struggling novelist in Detroit,

Michigan at age 10, and as a poet at age 13. She has been recently encouraged in

these delusions by such publishers as Susurrus, Rattlesnake Press, The Yolo Crow,

and the Sacramento News and Review. She is co-authoring a novel for children and

any number of two voice poems with her husband Joseph. Having burned out on transforming

classrooms full of students into struggling writers, she is now the office manager

of the Davis Cemetery. In her miniscule spare time she whirls around contra dancing;

when she is thoroughly spun out, she practices Zen.  Joe and Susan also have CDs

of their work. You can find out more on their website: