Susan Birkeland Poetry

January 18, 1961 ~ Nov. 18 2006)


The Susie Arcane

In Memory of Susan Birkeland

by Jack Hirschman


Strangely as if the lid
of her own coffin were
closing over her

just when people are
reading her words,
she’s quietly resting

cherishing thoughts of
the thoughtlessness
she’s slipping into,

of looking the inner one
in the eye and finally
being zero.

So no more boats to
go down to the piers for.
Yet, still wanting, in the

waning, mistily she strains
upward: the other side,
all who’ve died, seems

alive and kicking. She
wants to be there.
She’s dying to be.

She’s waiting for him
to come over her, to
take her out.

Who never fails. Him.
Above all. Who’ll carry
her away to she.

Nothing more. No doubt.
She has next to nothing
to do but check out.



Say  there are places in
San Francisco sparkling
with the serious joie

de vivre of her poems
read from that core of
crisp bright soul,

that the North Beach
corner where she sang
with friends and wine

and shmoogadoo really
feels posthumous. Those
days that were…Ladadadadada.

Her eyes now ready, her
breast now ready, her hips
and thighs and modesty as well

Darn, she just would like
to know when she’ll
arrive at that language

she’s been written by. Hands
are in hers. Holding. Do
you read me in the darkness

when the light is on? O yes,
yes, open to ten thousand
things. The humming

of butter melting on his
body, for one. But all’s
overing, ovary just

can’t be. Yes, yes, it can.
Where it isn’t. Here. In
memory of the morning sun.



Death being what it is,
you know, and that’s
why she is too.

Susie, dear Susie
with your brave spiral
of rage and tenderness,

projective and scored.
Among so many street
poets how brightly you

shone, enthusing, a
blushing leaf of grass
who could burn at

Abu Ghraib, and chide
a celebrity brother for
forgetting your home

town of Hibbing---O
Death, you rat, you bit
into Susie just when she

was coming to full poem
prime. Here’s your cheese,
Death. Be snapped to death

for taking Susie. Poetry’s
so sad about her not being
able to be written by her,

it’s gone to a corner and
won’t come out until
she speaks again.

And of course, being poetry
now, she does.
She exclaims:

“I jump with glee!
I make voluminous tea
for all the entities

that are my friends in the
morning. Have some. It’s me.
Have some of me.

It’s good.
It’s good and warm
In the morning.”

© Jack Hirschman
      Paris, France


Jack Hirschman is the poet Laureate of San Francisco. He was born in The Bronx, New York. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree and his A.M. and Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1957 and 1961, he went to work as a teacher from his twenties until 1966 when he was dismissed from his teaching position at UCLA for having broken state examination laws in his attempt to prevent students from being drafted into the Vietnam War.
Jack has written more than 100 books and chapbooks of poetry including what many feel is his masterpiece The Arcanes, just this year. As
a resident of San Francisco since 1973, Jack Hirschman has taken the Free Exchange of Poetry and Politics into the streets. He is married to fellow artist and poet Agneta Falk. He was a mentor and friend to Susan and considered her to be one of San Francisco's finest poets.