murmurs at the gate by Suzanne Rancourt
murmurs at the gate – Suzanne S. Rancourt’s second book of poetry uses both fictional and auto-biographical events to create a chorus of survivors. These poems for the unspeakable, the marginalized, the “in-betweeners,” create a chorus of survivors in the theatre of life’s sorrow, love, tragedy, beauty, and profound human resiliency.
Ms. Rancourt’s life attests to being a survivor, and states, “Prejudice is non-discriminatory.” murmurs at the gate, is a poetic narrative that explores the harsh measures of life’s wars. “If we are at war with everything, who are the Warriors? Who are the survivors? And, for how long does the war cry reverberate?” Marine and Army veteran, and multi-modal artist, Ms. Rancourt brings to the reader her rich and diverse metaphors inspired by rural mountain living and Native American culture. Ms. Rancourt honors all her ancestors in this astounding book where every murmur could be your own.
Publication Date: May 27, 2019
Availability: Wherever books are sold.
We were not allowed to stay with our family or community
where we fed our animals and grew our gardens, foraged
for wild food and medicines. Most of the harder changes
had come and gone. I only remember some of the old ways.
Papa doesn’t sing anymore.
He sleeps a lot—we don’t get to bathe like before
like when we would light candles around the tree--
stars of life—painted the ox horns red and black.
The desert sand could be molded to fit our bones for comfort.
The sidewalk tile is painted and unyielding. It doesn’t hurt me much
it hurts Papa. He sleeps a lot. We don’t eat much. Papa’s bones
have become angled with the new life of no life,
filthy feet, lice and soiled clothing. We have one cup, enamel,
it holds our sustenance—coins, grains of rice, sometimes tea.
Sometimes I pretend that I recognize people from our family,
our clan of wanderers, healers, singers—I run up to them
holding my cup, grabbing their hand as children do.
The men sometimes touch with the pads of their fingers around my lips
put gold in my cup and say they will buy me when I am older.
Papa cries to sleep. “We are hostages” he says, “to progress, engineers,
strangers with no color pressing black boxes to their faces paying gold
for our moments of no moments.” Papa sleeps on a pillow
stuffed with grime. The no-color-skin man touches my mouth and says
“You should never grow old” and presses the corner of my curved lip
with the same finger that presses the shiny button on the black box.
I am frightened and not frightened.
I remember sleeping in oxcarts in cool desert nights with stars
our home was larger than all the palaces
we spun like turrets—arms up as pinnacles
in dresses and wraps of glitter and woven reds
brass and ivory arm bangles clacked and rung rhythmically
to the clay drums, click sticks, and gut–string.
I swirl loose tea in my chipped cup
like desert wind far away from sitting
in the sharp square of Papa’s sleeping hip, corner of
clay wall, painted tile floor—the backs of my legs are cool
getting longer. I am growing up
and the men will one day buy me because I could not stop
the progress of no life
living in the black box.
Suzanne Rancourt takes us deeply into the loves and the lives of her Native American people; enough so that we find ourselves touching our own stories, our ancestors, our own fragile and tough remembrances. It’s a beautiful book; one will want to read and re-read her tender and tough stories, deeply compassionate, touched here and there with delicious humor.
--Pat Schneider, author, Writing Alone and With Others and How the Light Gets In, both from Oxford University Press, and founder, Amherst Writers & Artists.