Garden Bench


Garden Bench


Narrowing path


overrun with elephant ears, birds-of-paradise,

pampas grass, plumed with decay.


Tentacles avid, relentlessly accelerate.

Sumptuous excess silences slow wind.


In canopy leaves reach for sky.


Alone here, unlonely,

immolant joy.


Between seasons, angled apart, the stone rests on gray schist legs.


Each dry winter, cemented

in their shrunken rigid waterless bed

desiccated stems flake to dust

Leaves of streamside trees

wait for July rain to decompose.


Each rainy summer night it sinks another iota toward its ancestral home

amidst the bedrock

of the river’s underground channel

tipping  imperceptibly

aslant in the slippery loam


The path a dirt track, no longer wide enough for two people to pass,

once planted, now wild


below steep rock steps a derelict fountain,

verdigris-bronze head on the wall

calcified mouth unable to spout the rainy runoff.


There the bench waited for decades.


Broken sun glints through heavy foliage.


I dream the afternoon.


Words fall through cascade of air.


Lines found in any order,


folded away,


found again,

foundered in the torrent

found sheltered

this reader of stone in the rain.



a                  a                a


Along a wide path,

white with florescent light,

white with cold empty shining air

immaculate, pristine, precise,

five people, a crowd covered in blue,

walk steady and resolute .



on the rolling platform

I dream back this sheltered garden.


The tiny black mystery, size of a fingernail, sends its life out

in threads, ready to take mine in suicidal excess.

They, steadfast under blue lights, mean to murder

this malignant monster.


Silence and noise, garden leaves,

insects and wind, muffled footsteps



A stone in the river ,washed smooth

by twenty years absence,

lies wet in the sunshine.


Gentle in its muddy bed,

heavy in my hand now, its body

contains the igneous history of the world.


A wader in this stream,

I step in the icy flow and fall

against its solid actuality.




DRAWING THE LINE ~ A Passionate Life

Kirkus Reviews

“much to ponder in this reflective memoir.” — Kirkus Reviews

The author recounts her life with an artist’s eye, furnishing telling details about the places and people she encounters. Arranged by locale, chapters contain shorter sections prefaced by a thematic word or phrase such as “No More Talking” or “The Dress,” making the book more accessible and richer than a list of events. Despite the disappointments in her life, the narrator doesn’t wallow in self-pity. Instead, she ties her experiences to political and historical events with clear, sometimes funny one-liners: “There was war in the Pacific and in Europe, and in our apartment.” In this way, her writing mirrors her line drawings—simple lines with surprising nuance and depth. The book’s title evokes her love of calligraphy, her meandering travels, her poetry (the book includes several poems) and society’s expectations for women that she must decide to uphold or not. Her deliberate storytelling style makes for thoughtful… reading.

Artists, writers and other “outsiders” will find much to ponder in this reflective memoir. — Kirkus Reviews


The Eric Hoffer Award

Honorable Mention

Drawing the Line: A Passionate Life, Susan Gardner, Red Mountain Press – The author has become an internationally known painter, photographer, and poet, and has traveled in Asia, Mexico, France, Canada, and throughout this country. Much of her artwork and some of her poems are included here. Although she has always been creative, she writes, “Being an artist was not a label I sought or understood. It is my identity, not a job… The intense desire for the work of making art is a yearning necessity, as irresistible as the most attractive and jealous lover.” ….This memoirist does not have grudges to bear; rather, her book reveals a fortunate woman, moving through her life’s adventures and disappointments with almost unflagging perseverance. It should especially provide inspiration for readers who are earlier on the risky yet rewarding path to “following one’s bliss.”

Drunken Boat # 15

Drawing the Line, a passionate life A Life Beyond the Lines by Jessica Treat

“Gardner’s memoir is most interesting and impressive…”

Susan Gardner is a poet and artist whose memoir, Drawing the Line, chronicles the life of a woman who increasingly places the rigor and discipline of art and the act of creation at the center of her life…..Gardner’s memoir is most interesting and impressive for its chronicle of the life of a highly intelligent, capable woman….

After an initial chapter in Mexico, Drawing the Linefollows Gardner’s life chronologically in a manner… which the reader comes to find increasingly compelling. The balance Gardner strikes between reserve and divulgence seems right, and the honesty and clear-sightedness with which she relates the continual challenges (the loss of a child, her husband’s affairs, exclusion from the working sphere abroad) as well as the resources she is able to draw from in facing them bind the reader to her with great compassion and respect.  Wherever she lives, she attempts to reach out, to create community, a life much larger than the one prescribed to her.  “From very early childhood I learned that because I was able to, I must do what was required of me,” (90) Susan Gardner writes. Here she chronicles her journey from meeting the requirements of being a daughter, sister, wife, mother, foreign service spouse, to those dictated by her art and her heart.  Gardner’s memoir will interest many….

Blood Lotus #22  Nov 2011 pp61-62 

Drawing the Line ~  Passionate Life is a work to savor…. imbued with the same vitality, restraint, and dignity as a perfect line. – Diane Thomas, author of The Year the Music Changed blood lotus November 2011 p61-62

More commentary:

Drawing The Line is a beautiful story of a woman’s struggle to be herself…. a personal exploration of the last six decades, and a peek into the formation of an artist…. – San Francisco Book Review
 August 2011

Drawing the Line is a fine memoir with plenty to absorb throughout. – Midwest Book Review/Small Press BookWatch Vol 10 No.8 August 2011

Gardner has given us a meticulously detailed, ruthlessly honest and emotionally redemptive story…. Drawing the Line generously offers that epiphany to all of us. – Wayne Lee, author of Doggerel & Caterwauls: Poems Inspired by Cats & Dogs

… sophisticated in its simplicity and profound in its lack of guile. Drawing the Line is soulful and beautiful. – Marc Talbert, author of Altogether Ernest

Susan Gardner’s DRAWING THE LINE is a poignant and touching personal story that vividly captures what it is to grow and discover, not only as an artist, but as a human being. – Scott Harrison, Artistic Director, Ironweed Productions