Susan M. Schultz
Traherne Series, 11 to 20
The Traherne series of memory cards is based on his first century of meditations, composed in the 1600s, and published in 1908 as Centuries of Meditations. The first sentence of each prose poem derives from Traherne. Traherne’s paragraphs are devotional; mine attempt to address a non-devotional world through a lens ground to look for the spirit. Traherne died on my birthday. ‒S.M.S.
Love is deeper than at first it can be thought. A portrait of the mind on the internet, mazed. We refuse to think a plane can disappear; mystery has lost its. This may seem selfish, but I want my partner to tell me things. I’m so sick of looking at his face and seeing only the same two eyes, the ones that used to look at me like orphans. The tension between structure and personality governs our interactions. Flow charts mark the failure of eye beams to remain fixed. There’s the melting, as of lava in Pahoa, flowing downhill, through chain link. The newspaper reports every foot of it, the week-long pauses. Walk for your life, someone jokes. The mystery is not that it exists, but the day it erases the strip mall’s parking lot.
– 28 December 2014
All things were made to be yours; and you were made to prize them according to their value. I keep touching the screen so words don’t dim, then dissolve. It’s a kind of silence, which I’m told is holy, but hardly the end I’m here to honor. The weed whackers insure an absence of quiet. Quiet must be made; it’s not a taking away, but an addition to. I used to make metaphors, now take them down, leaving a blank but moving line. The financial network helps you prepare for your jackpot; in the background, a woman screams over her newly purchased ticket. My daughter tried to make 100 out of a single dollar; all I heard was the sound of one bill crackling.
– 29 December 2014
We are like Him when our minds are in frame. Not to know meditative from non-meditative state. Frame narrows as it loses focus. The word in Japanese for “great” meant “tired” in plantation lingo. They knew she was Okinawan, because her hands were covered in tattoos. Women disfigured themselves so soldiers would not rape them. Focus is not frame but launch pad. When I closed my eyes I saw his block print behind the lids; they closed over my eye like a screen. I couldn’t read the words, but that seemed not to matter. It was pattern, the stink of dust and mold, imprint of light until the notebook closed like an eye. What we do not see is sometimes not a crime. What we hear is our boots on volcanic ash and sickled koa leaves. To lose focus is to see more: snow on the mountain, observatories like white pustules at the top. Selfsame land blemished, bleached as the tree tripped by lava flow. Sangha found a white tag with the number five scrawled on it, among the dead trees.
for Kevin & Miho in Volcano
– 5 January 2015
When things are ours in their proper places, nothing is needful but prizing to enjoy them. Critique the poetry of praise, its aimless blurts. To walk does not alter earth, unless you stomp by Kilauea’s seismograph. Watch its needle skitter, palsied. It’s not a political poetry he wants, but a resistant one. Who can resist this earth, its fertile rock? Lavafall at Pahoa’s transfer station; someone lays red petals on its black. To transfer is not to transcend, but distribute. The man does not become a deer but he changes paths, lacking antlers. Shipwreck, mind wrack: to tend is to resist. Dove, shama thrush, traffic on Kahekili. I am not buying a damn thing.
For Maged Zaher
– 6 January 2015
Souls are God’s jewels, every one of which is worth many worlds. Sick of the word “soul,” we try on others: politics, history, nation. These, we feel, are less abstract. Soul has no banner we can see. We cannot chant, “go Soul!” as if it were a team. We cannot give soul a 15-yard penalty with loss of down. The puns have lost their punch. “She’s made of rubber,” Bryant says of our daughter, and someone hears that straight. A pencil dies in Paris. The pencil is made of graphite, but its strokes are ghosts. So are hands that pushed it into figures. Videos contain graphic violence, a policeman shot on the street. Soul looks from a window high above. Soul holds her cell phone and shoots. This is evidence, this is archive. But soul has lost hers. There is no forgiveness here. Forgiveness is an abstract word.
For Jaimie Nagle
– 6 January 2015
For if you know yourself, or God, or the World, you must of necessity enjoy it. It! If the short prayer pierces heaven, the short word calls it. To be called, to call out, we cull the words until they line up like cards in a catalogue. Archives dissolve: their dust tactile, like skin. It smells of mold and rot. Outside, a battalion of ants tried to push a dead centipede into their nest. The gap between stair and house too narrow, they bore its body for days, up and down a stair. If ants were cartoonists, would they execute them for nasty? It is pronoun for a corpse. It was the cop on the street, body blurred (the second time) so we could not see him shot. An archive of repetition: they run to their car over and again. Always there is the sneaker under the right front door. What happened to it?
– 8 January 2015
He is not an Object of Terror, but Delight. Terror is our subject, not our text. If history cedes to entertainment, terror is delight. Bad translation within the same lexicon. Hand to type. Monk to press (he plays soccer in an adjacent poem). Her Alzheimer’s mother calls her Angie. Another mother called for Jenny: she was mother’s lover, a missing piece. The dead were objects of convenience. Sublimity is passé , except as random violence. No more crossing the Alps, even boulevards. There is no time to think after. How we get PTSD matters less than that we have it. To have is to own; to own is to grasp. I want to see this world from the scenic look-out of a spiritual text. I cannot find my way back. I am leaving the city and entering the suburbs, away from my heart. Arteries flow backwards. If delight is a small store in the banlieue, I will go there to ask for samples.
– 9 January 2015
The WORLD is not this little Cottage of Heaven and Earth. Hansel and Gretel trapped in a freezer at a kosher market in Paris. The wicked witch dressed in black, her face masked. She has taken hostages, considers that the word resembles host. Body and blood, what thins as you age, teeth leaning like trees in a hard wind. There is this to confront, time’s ordeal. And when the “forces of order” broke open the door and shot the witch dead? Did they in the freezer know to come out? Scapegoats, with their funny meats, huddling in the cold. They were led there by a Muslim clerk, later handcuffed by police. He looked like the witch, you see. They all spoke such good French.
– 10 January 2015
It is a long time before you come unto it, you pass it in an instant, and leave it for ever. That’s too easy, Tom, and you know it. You’ve erased the scab you knew was there but stings all the more for getting yanked off. I’m in bed listening to doves and thrushes and the murmur of Battlestar Galactica. The actor looks famous, but I can’t find his name. Is that the instant you mean, so ordinary? I remember walking across the campus of New South Wales with Hazel Smith. I have no memory of what we said.
– 10 January 2015
You are magnified among Angels and men: you are street view on google earth, swiveling up and down a street whose origin is a stop sign. The symbol for magnifying glass isn’t one, though it serves the same purpose. My youth a field of dead metaphors on which I click my mouse or touch the screen as if it were skin, tattooed. Pencils are old technology, but good symbolism. They travel better than hostages in a freezer locker, or a policewoman on her beat. The old Paris priest held a sign that named the dead, all of them. We know the killers by their videos. One brother picked up a sneaker from the street. It was an act of volition so small it fascinates. Another man sat beside a book case in which four books lean. I cannot read their spines, see only white paint, an otherwise bare room, a man in a black jacket beside a Kalishnikov. Testimony before the fact that cancels it.
– 11 January 2015
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Susan M. Schultz is author of several books of poetry and poetic prose, most recently Dementia Blog (2008), Memory Cards: 2010-2011 Series (2011), and “She’s Welcome to Her Disease”: Dementia Blog, Vol.2 (2013),all from Singing Horse Press. Vagabond Press included Memory Cards: Dogen Series in their recent deciBels Series (2014). She edits and publishes Tinfish Press from her home office in Kāne‘ohe, Hawai`i, and roots for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.