Today cover.jpg
Today: 101 Ghazals
By Suzanne Gardinier

"Suzanne Gardinier takes a centuries-old poetic form — the ghazal — and injects its trademark themes of love and longing with words, references, metaphors and images that recall a more modern age: Manhattan, a country house, her lover's bedroom, the daily news. The resulting poems elicit a distinctly modern sexiness and political resonance from the inherently lyrical, lilting and musical form. 

"With endnotes that reference Joni Mitchell, Moby Dick, James Baldwin, the Bible and numerous news articles, these are the poems of a writer and a reader who prizes revelations of all kinds. They demand to be read aloud, given as gifts and photocopied for friends. They are poems that remind us that poetry is for everyone."

NPR, Morning Edition , "Booksellers' Selections for Summer Afternoons"

NPR: From Today: 101 Ghazals

NPR: From Today: 101 Ghazals

  Weekend America: The Ghazal, A Poem of Longing

 Weekend America: The Ghazal, A Poem of Longing

Interview with Rachelle Cruz, The Blood Jet Writing Hour, 2010

Interview with Rachelle Cruz, The Blood Jet Writing Hour, 2010

Lilith Magazine: Reimagining History

Lilith Magazine: Reimagining History

Exit Strata: Abigail Welhouse on Suzanne Gardinier

Exit Strata: Abigail Welhouse on Suzanne Gardinier


I can hear you but I can’t see you
That’s your plan for me isn’t it

The branch of the cherry along the path
is interrupted by blossom isn’t it

Three cardinals on sand in my dream last night
Night is a lesson in thirst isn’t it

Two chairs One where I sit and wait
This is your idea of love isn’t it

Pruned forsythia Sprays of carbon monoxide
A Columbus Avenue dialogue isn’t it

If I could put my lips to your shoulder
That’s also a shirt between us isn’t it

If I can’t see you shall I make you up
That’s a red bird stammering isn’t it


The moon coming up in early September
Clock replacer Telling the time

Used moon Rusty at the start of its aria
Making its own measures Telling the time

It crosses the sky like a shark Like a scythe
A current of white lava Telling the time

A match set to the warehouse of licenses
Of synchronized watches Telling the time

Over neon imitations Over unquiet ruins
The city looking down Telling the time

Oh but up Up A reckoning
on the terms of the tide marshal Telling the time

Night terms Terms to make your chest ache
if you lift your face Telling the time

Finding you by the smeared window Touching you
under your clothes Telling the time

Variations on the theme of burned scaffolds
you thought were buildings Telling the time

Variations via sweat and gin and jasmine
Scald of milk Tenderly Telling the time

Not all night Just a long arc through the sweet part
Close your eyes There it is Telling the time

Two women again No one knows them
but the breaker and enterer Telling the time

One pulling the blind One writing two letters
One to the moon Telling the time


Your eyes are still closed but they move You’re dreaming
The end of the long night ride nearing Not here

Dreaming of a plane pressed to a plank
Finding the curve in the stiffness Not here

Make it wet and it bends A can of varnish
and the bend is a boat But not here

A car is burning An intersection A city
The emperor waving and smiling Not here

Here a pine made an arc made a room is salt wet
for the first time It’s morning But not here

Someone beside you stirs and you hold her
Answering the night’s last question Not here

In another morning she was a girl
and found where you were hiding Not here

Awake and asleep The trim skiff and the water
Here Not What language is this Here Not Here

The first time they hardly know each other
The hull and the wave But they learn But not here

The sound of it The slap and suck
of the introduction But not here

The curve of your back Your breasts forgetting
the night lessons Starting the day’s But not here

Where the emperor laughs Where a car is not burning
Closer and closer Not here

Where someone sleepless kisses your eyelids
in a room made of words Not Here


In a dream In a room that doesn’t exist
In an occupied city Two women dancing

The emperor’s searchlight finds the room’s corners
but they keep to the dark parts Two women dancing

Who’s the leader Who the follower Cheek
to cheek as they say Two women dancing

How do they know where to put their feet
One leaning One yielding Two women dancing

Stalked city Or is the hunting over
Helicopters and two women dancing

Deeper than the sea sings their instructor
Someone dead teaching two women dancing

Light through the slits in the walls of the garrison
Press the closure it opens Two women dancing

To the tune of ashwind Of the guards pacing
To the tune of sirens Two women dancing

Loosened Untied Unleashed Undone
Whose are they Contraband Two women dancing

One with a ring on her left hand’s third finger
One with a scar there Two women dancing

One lowering a mask of mirrors
One a mask of ink Two women dancing


I’ve lost my shoes Have you seen them
The winged ones that used to carry me

I’ve heard that when people die they remember their mothers
and call in the night Carry me

When my son used to say I can do it myself
he was whispering Could you carry me

When the quick rain soaks the shoulders of my shirt
it’s saying Just for now Carry me

There’s a tenderness around your eyes
Have enough tears said Carry me

All day in this new dream I walk on gravel
and the words you didn’t whisper carry me

When my mother arrives at the end of something
it’s to faint in my arms and say Carry me

I’ve known how to walk since before I was born
It’s useless to try to carry me

What the dazzle of light says as it touches
the wave swelling Cresting Breaking Carry me

What the secrets say as they line the edges
of my eyesYour eyes Carry me

What the shoeless stammerer doesn’t say
as she doesn’t step into your arms Carry me


Put your finger to my lips will you
Before I say something past forgiving

Tell me where your hands have been
Tell me what you’ve done that’s past forgiving

I know someone who’s free but not here
Past touch Past memory Past forgiving

The guards in lines try to take off their flesh
and put on steel Past death Past forgiving

Your voice A clear stream over gravel Laced with trembling
A hesitation between orchards Past forgiving

Your ankles pale on the couch The day fading
Did you mean to show me what’s past forgiving

The way your hips used to tell me the truth
that is not the truth and is Past forgiving

Those the guards touch strapped in ice and plastic
The faces on street posters Past forgiving

The emperor’s loyal ones cheering Is this
how our children will learn what’s past forgiving

A woman with a photograph Her mother’s face
Which of them is past forgiving

Who’s here Your trespasser Blinder of witnesses
Past purity Past famine Past forgiving


Zukkar to azúcar Did an oud cross the strait
to teach a Cádiz guitar to say sweet

Too much and it tips Stand on one foot and find it
The dizziness Part fear Part sweet

The old city’s name meaning enclosure
A castle wall Which side sweet

Look down from the ramparts Carnaval
The masked dancers teaching the stone ways sweet

Nuptials Swords Ships with cannon ports
left for the magistrates Here it’s sweet

Almond and cinnamon Apricot cakes
Your teeth at my lip to temper the sweet

To gather the strength to keep near enough
The all-night lesson Succor Sweet

To be wise in it taste Sabor y saber
A little in my bowl Then vanished Sweet

The city’s throat closed to the emperor’s edicts
Bolting the gates Drunk on sweet

The line of your cheek as the color rises
Are you putting your mask on again Is it sweet

Goodbye to the flesh But one night is long
Someone’s playing all the notes she knows Playing sweet

Your heel Your lip Late bent note
Your name in a dream All the ways to say sweet

The one for your clown here always motley
Cake of honey and dirt My ash dance My sweet


Do you remember what you told me
when you were sitting on my lap last night

In a chair But not any one we know yet
In a city in which we were strangers last night

The arms low enough for your knees to rest there
Strong enough to hold you last night

On my lap frontwards You forgot your costume
and I forgot to remind you last night

A splint made wet to learn to bend
The arc of your back in my hands last night

I was wearing a mask in the form of a shirt
But you undid the buttons last night

Your breasts speaking silence My tongue the translator
We had a long conversation last night

What did I think I would do with it
What I thought I could keep from you last night

What my fingers inside you made us say
Your lips against my listening last night

Who made your face Who made the chair
by a window that was our bed last night

Your listener kept hearing it City bled white
  just outside our window last night


The gatekeeper fallen asleep The lock slipped
from the hasp and the way open when you come

The white stallion or is it a mare
who moves in the dark just before you come

Arched and held firm Lost and intent
Torn and joined Rent BelovedWhen you come

My voyager Vaulted Verge and tip
and tongue and lip and whisper when you come

In my mouth scraps of the song with no words
you leave trembling there when you come

At the angel’s behest and mercy driven
down the throat of the tempest When you come

The parched ache at the cistern brim
The rapture of the dipper when you come

On the third circumnavigation a harbor
called Salt Taste That Greets You When You Come

Is it you or the angel wet with sweat
filling the room with God’s name when you come

The paved beach and the wetness of the brook
freed from the burying ground when you come

Someone almost there Your shepherd of ache
whose stray ones are gathered again when you come


The claw of a crab The sweet flesh near the elbow
I say I’ll stop when I’m full but I don’t

The dawn soft over dark apartments
I say I’ll turn and go home but I don’t

Who are you What do you want from me
I say I’ll ask without smiling but I don’t

The burning curry missing the mango
I say I’ll forget the sweet but I don’t

It’s night and you’re nervous so I say
I’ll laugh at the lovers with you But I don’t

I listen I feast I crack I batten
I miss you I lie I do I don’t

Two women In a room left by someone else
Who knows what they’re trying to say I don’t

The emperor’s harvest This boy I say
I don’t think of him enough and I don’t

Feast of razed Beit Lahiya orange grove
I say I’ll share it but I don’t

Feast of your voice in your body’s absence
I say I’ll rest there but I don’t

Behold your upright citizen made faithless
I say I mean faithless but I don’t


Twitching in sleep Reaching for you
Foolish Faithful My left hand

Hearing winter’s stripped moaning in the distance
Hiding in my pocket My left hand

Held up to ward off the glare of the searchlights
Guard marks at the wrist My left hand

Stumbler Slacker Slow at its lessons
Maimed listener My left hand

The off ox Hearing the whip orders dimly
Distracted by heart music My left hand

Stained mirror Fingertips smeared with guards’ ink
and the newspapers’ grief My left hand

Architect of a city that doesn’t exist
Where your cheek rests against my left hand

Against your lips but not to hush you
and not those lips My left hand

Dear Mother my empty-sleeved grandfather wrote
I am trying this with my left hand

Dear besieged city wrote the girl born there
I write backwards Fleeing backwards With my left hand

Conducting the movement of silence for the street
made corpses and stones My left hand

City of peace But not here Not yet
A map on the palm of my left hand

Here’s your gardener Planting garlic and hibiscus
at the edge of winter with my left hand


Wasn’t that your cheek against mine last night
Gin Streetlight When somebody loves you Impossible

When you reach the broken paddock fence
the sign will say Impossible

The color God painted my eyes A cross
between storm and ewerstream Impossible

All your wrong lovers without certificates
Stamped across their foreheads Impossible

Dear Torch Received your kind invitation
Regret conflagration impossible

You must mean a phantom Your hand at her waist
Your ache at her absence Not mine Impossible

A holy place in the emperor’s city
A peach in a stone Impossible

You the mask of a ram I the mask of a bull
Horn chips Mischling Torn doors Impossible

Dance without footprints Dance with no name
in a room with no lovers not touching Impossible

Your eyes One protecting your sleeping son’s dreaming
One torchlit and trying to close Impossible

Dear Lion Here’s a gazelle Hold her
in your teeth but no bitingYours Impossible


You left a few souvenirs last night
Three bent feathers Marks on my hips Angel

My brother’s wounds open again by morning
All night they’re closed and blessed by an angel

With your thumb you wipe the lipstick from my neck
so no one will know you’ve visited Angel

Is it true you’re wearing a uniform now
Are you part of the emperor’s legion Angel

The tideline of your sweat on the sheet
Your shoulders’ labor Night swimmer Angel

A note on the pillow Una rompecabezas
Artichoke Thistle One of each from your angel

Who whispers sedition Who takes your clothes
of stone and gives you flesh Angel

In the morning my hips are broken and the ash
on the windowsill has a new name Angel

The sounds in the dark as you break me Is this
how someone grown gets born Angel

How you dream the guards take you away
for the heresy of your tenderness Angel

In the braid of us hard to tell one from the other
In the dark Two women Part ash Part angel


Do I know your taste and the ache in your voice
from a night beach in another world

In a borrowed bed one afternoon It was raining
But no You must mean another world

The last light playing the grackles’ blacks
in this or is it another world

How he fell with a red map on his chest
A page from an atlas of another world

The child fresh from it trying to remember
how this tune goes in another world

At the checkpoint each suspect holding two passports
One for this and one for another world

Received your last invitation The one
to a locked door to another world

How she found him pressed to the wall of a tunnel
and whispered a message from another world

How they named the cut places for their fathers
to forget they’d been touched by another world

How she lives in a camp with her grandchildren
and carries the key to another world

Sometimes in her weariness a fragrance
The harbors and cooksmokes of another world

Glass dimming the street din when you said
where you’d like to touch me In another world

Your traveler’s shirt has two fragrances
One from this and one from another world


The vase of tower fragments and his mother’s
last dress made ashes the wind blows loose

How the rain reaches into the winter ground
and warms and turns the grasses loose

Walk on your knees says the guard to his father
Give me a name and I’ll turn you loose

The harbormaster’s hands in the morning
on the knots the night tides tried to pull loose

The peony petals pressed in round bud
then unfolding Your shirt’s pink Then falling loose

How the years found what she held so tightly
and took it Prying her fingers loose

Left in the tree he passed every day
A man The tatters of his clothes flapping loose

The smallness of the barbarians’ airplanes
after the emperor’s airplanes let loose

How he sat coughing shards of his nation’s hatred
How she wanted to keep him and he said Turn me loose

The meadow paddock by the intransigent
sea broken open and the horses run loose

She’s remembering your way with her bindings
Yrs bridled How you tighten How you cut them loose


Take my hands before they forget
the dances they used to know will you

The newspaper’s grief says you never will
but maybe you missed that part Will you

How he hides from the village guarding her
to stand close enough to whisper Will you

Fool to moon as she takes her gold clothes off
Take mine while you’re at it will you

What the angel asked via harrow and salt
and no name in the street Will you

What he says when his son visits the prison
Tell your mother I love her will you

The torn girl wearing the cloak that makes her
invisible Take it Carry it will you

The hellbent searching song he plays
through the night until morning Translation Will you

I’ve lost the map to the orchard A place
you know night wanderer Take me there will you

When I make the mistake of recognizing
you Stranger Forgive me Will you

She’s writing it on the last piece of paper
When you open it’s blank but her voice says Will you


Who found the dress she left on the sand
in the darkness in which she walked out of life

How she touched the grafted cherries
to forget what her father taught her was life

How I watch the moon cross like a letter between us
The vigil that has become my life

If what you think is life is a dream
and what you think a dream is life

The boy soldier’s glory and the veteran’s shame
Which did they treasure His death or his life

The moment before he begs them to take it
The last time he begs for his life

How the rains bring ruin and relief
and leave in their wake devastation and life

Rolled in the arms of a roughneck gambler
who laughs like you do In the arms of life

The night journey to whose temple To the bed
that smells not of smoke but of lovers Of life

When she asked the winter scrabble camp tree
its name who answered Life Life

Leave my mouth then but first set a seal there
Of balm for affliction Of joy Of life

Can’t you taste it yourself In that bold devoted
asking and knowing My outlaw Life

What is this thread with which you’ve bound me
to an orchard in a storm To life


Leaving the feast of your mouth in a dream
for the ache of the waking sidewalk today

The woman who slept with her cheek on the pavement
waking with the sun in her eyes today

Repeating itself in whose fever dream
Whose sidewalk market made charnel today

Where are you my comrade Making whose grief
laugh Salt and walking my comrades today

Not dusk Not the night where we rode until
not dawn Not riding Not we Today

Your face in my dreams like the water the wind
touches and moves Touched Here’s today

One last note From this hand you opened
In the palm a kiss Yours Yesterday Today