Susan M. Schultz

from Memory Cards: Dogen Series

Rivers and oceans exist in water. Why he comes back to me now. Shown his photograph, my son says he looks like he’s my father. Shown her photo, my mother said it was her mother’s. The poet's mirror–self Cambodian. What does not resemble me still is. Moves across, as on a board. “Do you remember Fred?” I asked, and she nodded. Who knew what that nod intended—scaffold ritual, or recognition? His photo bent, as it was folded, closed like a leaf against the artificial light. Eye–lid louvered. Outside: two white golf carts, the sky’s particulars. Breeze, lawn mower, birds. Video and audio at odds, overlap. The second baseman scored before his foot touched home.

—16 June 2014


There is no original water. There is no half–water or full, adopted or step–water. Why water sticks to rock. Why rock sits still, amid its burgeoning. She posts a photograph of her mother’s hands, folded over her lap. A wheelchair. I know you’re important to me, but I can’t recall your name. How we gravitate to the predicate, its tragic forgetting. But the subject of the sentence is knowing. I know that, my daughter says. Her shoulder blades are butterfly wings; they fold. The side that folds loses. Put a coin in the slot; it becomes a verb. The predicate is all adrenaline.

—17 June 2014


When water melts, it is gentler than milk. Beneath a pink kid’s bike by the road, I see the man’s back. Shirt pulled overhead to shade his neck, he faces the woods. Two hundred yards back, a black plastic door fronts his burrow. Brown ti leaves hug the rail above. Categories require instances. Instances require equipment: bike, tarp, pole. At Civics, girls practice footwork, each to her own ball; behind the restrooms a couple has set up camp. It’s probably safe, I tell my son, close to the police station. We cannot let the homeless take over our city, the mayor says. It’s a problem that requires a war, or a cure. The man at the park stares through chain link at the parking lot. His partner lies beneath her yellow blanket. I see her two feet, standing.

—18 June 2014


The original face has no birth and death. My son refuses to enter the pool, turns his back on two young parents and a child splashing. That’s not it, he says when I suggest. That’s not it, not it. I will not guess, assume. He’s my multiple–choice generator, lacking empty circles. My mother stared at another woman in a restaurant. It was a moment of intimacy I wish I hadn’t witnessed, he writes. To perceive is not to know. It's some kind of zombie apocalypse, this wanting to read minds, or at least faces, to lever into synapses, catch impulses before they stick. When asked what he’d do in case, my husband responded that he’d cook them. Our daughter’s only possession when we met her was a thick brown pencil. She clutched it in her fist. We don’t remember her early sounds; she started us with words.

—20 June 2014


Water is only the true thusness of water. It’s more than flowing, but flowing is more than itself. Why are all abstract paintings alike, he asks. My daughter needed to take the portrait of a stranger. When I download her photos, I see a college student seated at a bench, eyes at her level. Do not take pictures of the homeless. Better to witness their tents, their blankets, their coffee cups, their dogs. The Stranger is newly translated. How do you navigate “maman”? The same sun in French is not a son. The same sound is not sound, but the thusness of sound. Read this sonnet like a lawyer in love; the speaker makes an argument, after all. They used to rhyme, love and prove. Now we prove our love without sound’s symmetries. Under that tree, or that one, I thee wed. You in your loaner ring, and I in mine.

—20 June 2014


When water solidifies, it is harder than a diamond. The particular of water is less water. Particulate anecdote. There’s a blue guitar on top of the homeless man’s burrow. I saw it slung over his shoulder, thought it a fishing spear. Those who don't know they’re being watched, or those who watch themselves as if removed from others’ eyes. She puked in a Colorado Rockies cap at the top of Mount Evans. My mother said the novel smelled bad. Served him water in a jelly glass, the kind I always hated. The rim denoted lid: eye in the tunnel half–open, hyphenated.

—22 June 2014


There is a world of sentient beings in fire. He approaches from the basketball courts, across the parking lot, calls out to us. What are your names, he asks, his right hand stuck out. Just the first, I won’t remember the last. His shirt as open as his eyes. We shake his hand, offer up our names. I turn to see him kneeling in the parking lot behind me, forehead to the asphalt, singing to Jesus. Ecstasy, Glenn suggests, or meth. Bipolar, says Bryant. Assign them a name, his wide–open eyes. We see every day what we fail to notice: cloud, sky, red gas can. Title the poem so it can be hand–held, like a dog's rubber toy or a video cam. The dog eats dirt, pees on the deck. We forgive him because he’s old.

—24 June 2014


You should study this in detail. He testified that the homeless sleep perpendicular to the street, rather than parallel. The homeless are a particular pronoun. Leaving a restaurant I saw a fresh line of tents on the sidewalk; a couple my age walked toward me from theirs. I have my grandfather’s Hamlet, who was taken off a Pittsburgh street by nun—a great salesman, my mother said. A poet’s son was killed at Leavenworth. To leaven is to make rise. The homeless must get off our sidewalks, leave our parks, keep their shit to themselves. In an interview, the poet said, I like all my children, even the squat and ugly ones.

—27 June 2014


“The green mountains are always walking; a stone woman gives birth to a child at night.” Not a birthing stone, but a woman. Beneath a blue tarp, above a blanket, lies a round stone with face etched in. Above the blue tarp, red lava consumes condo towers. We circulate through the gallery, watched by a docent in a wheelchair. When she smiles, one bottom tooth shows. She asks about the volume of the music. The woman is not stone, but sidewalks are as hard. The cold corridors of Bal Mandir: her crib stood by the door. Two men arrested for forcing girls to wear bridal gowns, have sex, molest little boys. “The only team I’d coach is a team of orphans,” Mike Matheny wrote.

—30 June 2014


Everyday activity at this moment is hundreds of grasses brilliant in the moon. The moon an indifferent grade last night; gone behind gray cloud this morning. Birds, my black fan, the deaf cat calling, soon the RIMPAC planes. Yesterday, egrets patrolled the fresh mown lawn. They wear brown stripes down the backs of their necks, like ties. At Goodyear, one guy ignored me by staring at his screen; another jabbered on the phone. “It’s a personal call,” a second colleague said. “He annoys everyone.” He was talking about work benefits, staring at his phone while his colleague and I talked about him. A woman and a man waited behind me. The supervisor’s name is Scott. I walked to elementary school in the third person, composing the narrative of my life. Now the sun sharpens the green and the gray immensity of cloud as a man walks across my louvered window to the workers’ shed. This was not the narrative I had in mind; it’s no narrative at all. The end.

—2 July 2014

Susan M. Schultz is author of several volumes of poetry and poetic prose, including two volumes of Dementia Blog (Singing Horse Press) and the most recent installment of Memory Cards, this the Thomas Traherne series, from Talisman House. She founded Tinfish Press in 1995, and also writes criticism, reviews, and meditations on her blog. She is author of The Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary Poetry from the University of Alabama Press. She lives on O'ahu with her family and cheers for the St. Louis Cardinals. The poems in this issue of Interim were included in Memory Cards: Dogen Series, part of the deciBels series published by Vagabond Press in Sydney, Australia, and curated by Pam Brown.