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We’ll Take the Riddle, So Long as It Remains Unanswered

by Susan L. Leary

 

Sometimes the blue is so blue it is every shade of blue at once. The first sound, the back & forth of the blue water. A pair of scissors is blue as is the hem of the blue hand that holds them. The first urge, to snip the blue heron from a swath of nocturnal shoreline. Discernment risks injury, so we sleep inside the blueish swirls of our own blueish bodies, mistake the brute flap of a wing for touch, suffering for the brief amnesia of stars. Distant or beloved, a man’s cigar smoke is blue, a vast graffiti of legs stretched into the blue of a borrowed beach chaise, the marooned bones fooled into a comfortable shipwreck, the lungs into ether or sea. A ghost can whet the blade & sit inside the blue of a palm without our knowing. What comes is the world before it’d begun, before the blue was anything other than blue.

 

Susan L. Leary is the author of A Buffet Table Fit for Queens, winner of The Washburn Prize and forthcoming from Small Harbor Publishing in February 2023; Contraband Paradise (Main Street Rag, 2021); and This Girl, Your Disciple (Finishing Line Press, 2019), finalist for The Heartland Review Press Chapbook Prize and semi-finalist for the Elyse Wolf Prize. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in such places as Superstition Review, Tar River Poetry, Tahoma Literary Review, Cherry Tree, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and Pithead Chapel. Recently, she was a finalist for the 16th Mudfish Poetry Prize, judged by Marie Howe. She holds an MFA from the University of Miami, where she also teaches Writing Studies. Visit her at www.susanlleary.com.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “We’ll Take the Riddle, So Long as It Remains Unanswered”?

This piece emerged from a place of deep reflection on the meaning of life, particularly: how does one achieve peace in the wake of significant loss? When no solution presented itself, I leaned deliberately into mystery. This piece figures as a riddle because a riddle is meant to be elusive, evocative, thought-provoking, and most of all, a compressed version of what the mind might need to do to “solve” it. A riddle enjoys its brief life on the page because it knows it operates more extensively on the imagination of anyone who hears or reads it. Perhaps, then, answers are overrated. Perhaps, then, the attempt to reckon with life and never fully comprehend its origin or end is peace enough.

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