You can purchase copies of JLSchneider’s poetry chapbooks Fever Dreams and Unceremonious at Inquiring Minds Bookstore at 6 Church Street in New Paltz, NY (www.NewPaltzBooks.com) and Barner Books, 3 Church Street, New Paltz, NY (www.barnerbooks.com). Below, “Song of an Expatriate” is a sample from Fever Dreams. You can purchase a copy of his poetry collection It’s Strange Here on this web site.
The other poems below have been published in various other magazines.
(“Calling Home” was a runner-up in the DASH Journal 2014 Poetry Competition and published in that magazine)
The rain ceasing now
seems unnecessarily cruel.
My house is on fire.
I’m calling it.
Clouds skim across a warm
Lawyer Moon emerging. I can hear
the phone ringing inside
as leftover black leaves slap my cheek.
The house doesn’t answer. Luckily
my wife is away this week
having an affair. And as I watch
it burn I wonder
what the house is thinking, alone, the walls gone
after so many years together. Where
did all this outside come from?
How It Is
(Originally published in Crazy River)
He sits on the edge of the guest bed
having slept in his clothes
and smokes and listens to the rain
that has come inside the house somewhere.
The cat has been crying at the door
for an hour. He doesn’t hear it.
She gets up from the other room,
also in clothes from last night, having heard
the cat and walks into
the mirror dividing
as it reflects the eye.
It’s framed in the guest room doorway
when she passes by. She looks in
and sees herself sitting
and smoking and thinking about her father
who never came back. And he’s now walking
to let the cat in, wearing his dirty clothes
and wondering why that woman
suddenly stopped writing.
This is before words are spoken.
Then he’s crushing a stub
in the ashtray by the bed
and she’s sprinkling cat crackers in a bowl.
Stepping out into the rain for coffee
it’s as if nothing happened.
There’s a brief reminder
in the bright Formica,
in the stainless steel urn,
in the well-rested eyes of the waitress,
and if there were ever a need for church
it’s gone. They get on with their lives.
That’s how it is sometimes
on a Sunday morning
when it rains.
Song of an Expatriate
I’ll go back and stand
behind an old lover as she reads
a magazine from the Almac’s rack.
I won’t speak to her. I’m there for illusion,
canonical warmth and the obesity of choice,
to wander and not touch
anyone: the closeness
one feels for laundry
tumbling in the dryer two feet away.
I’ll put in an extra quarter to stay
past closing. I’ll walk to California Liquors
for beer and cigarettes, use some rusty Spanish
then take the long way home for the familiar
feeling of being lost in Olneyville. Continents
like ice cubes underfoot
will drift to the threshold of the last door
at The Last Call where I can’t pay.
I’ll walk away while strangers
I knew so well become friends
again with pinguid grins
for a little while. I will have lost
my long coat by then.
I’ll go back
because even the dead want to return. I’ll stand
in the soil of wandering grain. I’ll dissolve
then one day be dug up, reassembled,
and put on display in the restless wing
of the Windmill Museum.
Your Place, Now
(Originally published in Prism Review)
You know where the temperature rises
and falls as if it’s fog, seeable.
The dry stone wall scarfed in snow,
Eliska dead there—
you point, idyllically
there and there, when the buses
still took tourists down to the river.
You mother and father hurt each other
there, where you’ve since imported pampas
that never dies and the snow stays
until May. You can tell guests
the difference between male
and female dawns, where the deer runs
cross the road by their leftover echoes.
You drive and know
each falling leaf by name, the running
gray sock of a squirrel and his grandfather.
Sometimes you go away from your place
and things happen
while you’re gone. The silverfish drown
in their silver, some blades of grass need bending
the other way, the one-eyed pine starts crying.
Upon your return the tour begins
again. There, there where she sat
and watched the faces watching
the lightning instead
of the lightning.
Coming to Bury Him
(Originally published in Off the Coast)
out of the east
into the burnt streets, humming
the beat of a rhythm in the air
my brother and I arrive in the city of limp steel
and people the buses have forgotten
after ten years
we’re looking for a dead man’s house
in a shallow sea of iodide
leaking into the alleys
and under abandoned cars
—the broken promise
of a building here and there
we go on
relieved of the east
in the midst of a fifth direction
in the partial legs
stepping into black doorways
the soles of yawning feet
a woman sitting in a car
without wheels her children climbing out
of the empty grocery bags
we sing the song
in the early morning
of a weary band marching
and the sound of children
jumping on the world
What if It’s True?
(Originally published in Wordsmith.)
“If one has never floated out of the body in meditation or sleep, then one should be disqualified from writing explanations of Egyptian religion.” —William Irwin Thompson
What if it’s true? The birdseed
lurking in the bottom of my shoe, a cup’s worth,
the live scurry-sound when the leather mouth is lifted
to take the tongue of the foot—put there
by my own hand. Am I thinking as I walk at night
dreaming through the house (do I turn on the light?):
Where is the cathedral of the shoe?
What if it’s true? Then why not
for lentils or split peas with the same
millet shape and sound. Or rice. No trail
of bread crumbs, no clew, no spoor
to follow back to my bed. The seed found
in the hutch. In The New York Times. Seven seeds
near the sash of the north window, last night
my body moving (I imagine) toward the mysteries
rubbed to glowing at night and seen only
by floating strollers. What if it’s true
that everything is true? Especially the secrets
birds keep to themselves, the snow falling
around their plump, golden bodies.