Four Poems by Tina Schumann
3rd Annual Contest Finalist
And the eggs have been broken. The bacon laid to rest. The belly of the dishwasher satisfied at last. Oh, satiated coffeed world with your mind in reverse and your soft body bound in flannel sheets, how have I come to you again? In the crash of weekday waves breaking on the splintered porch, in the gravity and weightlessness that hefts this ball of earth, its rotation part ritual, part benediction. How I covet the hours we will spend in the endless hedge grove of banal and quiet tasks; picking up the magazines, shaking out the doorstep’s mat. In the yellow state I am in I cannot divine the day or fathom a future form. From here it’s nothing more than alliteration of motion. Though the calendar pinned to the kitchen wall gapes in silent notation, all attempts at formulation remain null. Tomorrow I will don my grease-coat of complaint, my lab-wear of ego. I will stand in the doorway and admire the way the shore so soon becomes the ocean floor.
Outside— the peonies are beyond their deaths. In here—on our continent of a bed— we are busy showing each other pictures of ourselves: mouth to rib, back to belly, palm to hip. Here is the reciprocal breath, the sanctified taking—my only chance at reformation. All day long I live in my head and as the house bends toward twilight you say, See here, you’ve got it all wrong. Lie down. Get a load of our quiet profiles. Outside— the tubers have turned inward, away from the light. In here—in our cathedral of a room— we are busy ridding ourselves of words, holding our faces to the mirror. Carrying out our best directive.
This morning in the garden the soil smelled sweet. Something beyond root or loam. Something about skin and the body. Say mother or perfumery. Say memory.... Last night I dreamt of the old house again. The rooms appeared larger, hallways deep and wrong angled. No end to the floors, no out there. Only more doors, lamps on bedside tables turned low, dishes draining on a sideboard. Why that house when there were so many others? That house where there was never remedy, only more inquiry; unopened boxes, talk of paintings and rugs lost in transit—so much left behind. Today the grapevines reach their long arms over the roof of this house and I wonder at memory’s storerooms. At our capacity to accrue the framework of windows, attic and crawlspace. Because I could not work it out then I interrogate that house again and again, run the tips of my fingers over plaster and paint—like a blind person feeling my way along the backs of chairs and across lampshades. I make my way through the tyranny of rooms.
A Seasonal Accord
Nettles grow tall just beyond the backyard fence, out of reach—all season—growing on the sneak. I hear them scuff and sway across the wood. I haven’t the heart to cut them dead. It happens every year, the same tacit alliance— the same exchange of life, death and resurrection. I peruse catalogs of false potential, eye the seductive carnage-to-be. Each page more raging with chi than the one before. Digging at the roots, turning under cover crops, I bend to the bed, rotate and plow. Play at the putting off— the inevitable prize of rot. Though every adolescent sprout is pleasant, congenial, a charmer full of fibs and propaganda. Still, I can’t help but ask; When does the real work begin? When does the sky give leave and let reason fall to the ground? Why can't I just say it? I do it for the loss, the fragility, the decay so achingly sought and the bloom never as satisfying as the falling away.
Tina Schumann’s manuscript As If received the Stephen Dunn Poetry Prize. Her work was a finalist in the 2011 National Poetry Series and she is the recipient of the American Poet Prize. A Pushcart nominee, she holds an MFA from Pacific Lutheran University and her poems have appeared widely including Ascent, Cimarron Review, and Crab Creek Review.
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