Poetry by Sam Schmidt

Thanks to Walt

A child of the 90s expects all of her problems to be solved,
If not by Fairy Godmother,
Then in a bluish puff of Robin Williams.
Should she find herself on her hands and knees,
Scrubbing the linoleum,
She knows that somehow, her troubles will burst away
Like iridescent rainbow bubbles,
And mice will help her get ready for prom!
If she wishes for prince charming,
She expects his face to appear beside hers
In the water of the wishing well
Or, you know, basically any time after 11:11.
Naturally, she would trade anything
For the sort of legs he would admire;
Bonus points if she can pull off a seashell bra.
Then, should she fall asleep for 100 years after the party,
She knows her prince will kiss her awake.
So maybe the “whole new world” he showed her
On his magic, beer-stained carpet
Was not quite what she expected.
Hakuna matata! Leo burns brightly overhead,
And as long as there are still hills down which to tumble,
The Circle of Life moves us all.

 

What Fools These Children Be!

You said it right!
I am the wrinkled likeness of a woodland sprite.
I wink at grandchildren and make them laugh
When a half-gallon of ice cream’s lost on my behalf,
Claiming, fingers sticky, that it wasn’t me!
And sometimes lurk I in the cabinetry,
In the very likeness of a stealthy cat,
Should child pilfer snacks, to startle the brat
Who leaps a hundred feet, and squeals just like a pig.
And when she turns away, I do a jig,
Throwing my tennis-ball walker aside.
When back around she turns, down topple I,
Stifling a laugh, and cry, “I can’t get up!”
What mischief when she finds my dentures in her cup!
What horseplay when I flash my pink and toothless grin,
And hide behind a scarf fastened with an old clothespin.

 

Acceptance Letter

I’ve fooled you for now

But one day you will notice from the off-white of my shirt
That I do not separate light from dark when I do my laundry
That I have worn holes in the soles and the toes of my shoes

Little clues
Consequential only in hindsight

But not until you see how I write
The childlike slant that leaves my ring finger blotted with ink
And you hear the Midway in my voice
Will you truly suspect that you’ve made a mistake.

Then you will see my thoughts only half-formed
My text a translucent, paper-thin tissue of citations (Barthes 42)
My credentials counterfeit, my ethos nonexistent

And suddenly you’ll know I don’t belong here

Some modern Chicago Pygmalion imposter
Destined to live forever in my hoarder house
With Franz Kafka nightmares crawling up the walls

At what point in the overcompensation, if any
Does one cease to deceive?

 

Well-Wishers

Said the little old man peering into the well,
“I’m terribly sorry that you fell,
This well is getting rather old,
Crumbly rock and nasty mold.”

To the little old man peering down, I did shout:
“Isn’t there some way to get me out?”

He paused for a moment, then said with a grin,
“If you really don’t like it, then why’d you fall in?”

I stood there, dumbfounded, too shocked to reply.
Would he leave me here to die?
Trapped inside a moldy well,
Shoulder-deep in cold, damp hell?

“Though I’d help you, if I could,
I haven’t ladder (rope, nor wood!)
I guess I could go find a gun,
But I’m too tired to look for one.”

“A gun?!” I shouted with a start,
“For what? To blow the well apart?”

“No, no,” he chuckled wheezily,
“So you can die more easily!
I’ve no intent to be unkind,
But I’ll leave now if you don’t mind.
Me wife’s at home, the kettle’s on,
I’ve sorta got to use the john.
Sorry to leave you trapped down there,
I’m just too old to really care.”

 

Meditation Session, or Lost in Translation

Imagine your thoughts float past like leaves on a tranquil river, he says
But my mind is firmly indoors, pacing, stepping on thoughts like Legos.
Uniform lacks tranquility somehow. And what if he hates red and orange?
I guess the point is not to hate stuff. Or like it too much.
But – I must know – is there regulation underwear?
I would wear fancy underwear like a secret rebellion.
His bald head glints in the fluorescent lights of the conference room.
No hair allowed.
I’m officially disqualified.

Focus on your breath.  

What if this is just a distraction?
A government invention. Prevents uprisings.

Be grateful to breathe.  

Exactly!  Poor and oppressed, but grateful
To breathe.
Oh my god, he looked at me.

I see the anger in the corners of his lips.
The ends of his words clipped like Bonsai tree branches.

He knows!

He knows about my only cursory interest in his mandala.
He knows I didn’t buy any wooden beads.
He knows about my secret rebellion.

And he’s pissed.

Which makes him a terrible Buddhist.
Which makes me an okay Buddhist by default (?)

I left the meditation session feeling oddly refreshed and rejuvenated.

 

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