Suzette Bishop (Towards Visibility)

Suzette Bishop



Based on Hilma af Klint: A Biography by Julia Voss and “Polar Distress” by Daniel Glick


But one has to learn to see them,   27 polar bears drowning as ice melts, swimming too long, not making it to the next ice shelf.    I tell a lover’s ghost, As we made the plan together, you said nothing.   Once Mother is asleep, I run down the dim hallway following my compass, find Sigrid’s door.   It is my view of the work that it must be preserved as a whole and not mixed with others where waters become too deep and cold to support much life, a last-chance sanctuary.    You have service to the mysteries before you and will soon understand what is required of you.       


What is an angel? You can call angels manwomen.   Bowhead whales, oil deposits along the edges of ice, I don’t see them soaring over the heaving ocean.   My early portrait subjects ask if we know what it’s like staying in frame.    Those spirits like matchmakers can be indecipherable, send me to new lovers, tell me to envision abstract painting, predict our future.  I transcribe it all,       Medium.


The form is the waves, behind the form is life itself.     Ice breaks up, fewer ringed seal pups survive.    Pulled beneath the ocean, we’re shaped into delicate swirled shells, sent in different directions.   Womanman Manwoman.    Paint the spirit, dimensions of outer space,   resulting ecological ripples.  Create astral paintings.         


Ice platforms for rest, shrinking, causing flooding and drowning in a soundless planet. A spirit tells me I’m not satisfied. Particles of air stood between us. Seances help you find them.  My ancestors charted the seas. I chart the microscopic world, the galaxies, the spirits’ travels, beyond frame. This is where we navigate to, now.





He tells me to shut-up about my office,

An office I never asked for,

Now, being taken away

Because his wife needs an office,


And because he could have given

Me a full-time job, if only I’d asked,

And because he understands about pain,

Too, and grant rejections, and was there for me,


And snuck up behind me in the hall,

And yelled at my husband at a meeting,

And gave out my phone number,

And assumes the previous chair


Gave me the office for sex.

I was welcome to visit his office anytime

To give flowers for flowers like the others,

Or invite him to my windowless office,


But I didn’t.

So he’s heading for me from behind his desk

To kick me out of his office and my quiet room

Where I’d written two books.





I write the poem I think you want, but it’s all wrong,

And you throw it back at me, You can do better,

It’s sentimental, there are no ideas, it’s just a fucking pretty image.


A friend of yours is a visiting writer,

And my simple imagistic, feminine poem describing a manta ray

Embarrasses you in front of your friend,

And now the mood is grim while you tear down my poem.


Years later in this dream, I try again,

The language is thick, layered, the poem expands, opens like a landscape.

It’s conveyed to you in the back room by three of your women poets.


You send them back to me carrying heavy jewels,

One of emeralds and small broken mirrors, snapped into half-moons,

Something part necklace, part sculpture, a necklace of hammered metal,

The clasp like a miniature gate, an invitation.

Your women gather around the jewels in awe, fear,

How did you meet the teacher? What did you write about? It must be a mistake.


I glide away from you like the manta ray in that earlier poem,

Sea creatures giving off effervescence in the deep, sunless ocean canyon,

Lanterns that poem, the dream tell me to follow.


Suzette Bishop has published three poetry books and two chapbooks, She Took Off Her Wings and Shoes, Horse-Minded, Hive-Mind, Cold Knife Surgery, and most recently, Jaguar’s Book of the Dead. Her poems have appeared in many literary magazines and anthologies and received an Honorable Mention in the Pen 2 Paper Contest sponsored by the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities and first place in the Spoon River Poetry Review Editors’ Prize. She has the invisible disabilities of ME/CFS and fibromyalgia and lives in Laredo, Texas, with her partner and two cats.

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