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how the light

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schneider-moser

Pat's poem, Barry Moser's illustration. Proceeds to AWA outreach. For the text of the poem, click here.

To hear Pat read the poem, click here.

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Poems

Listen to Pat read her poem: “Instructions for the Journey”

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE JOURNEY

The self you leave behind
is only a skin you have outgrown.
Don’t grieve for it.
Look to the wet, raw, unfinished
self, the one you are becoming.
The world, too, sheds its skin:
politicians, cataclysms, ordinary days.
It’s easy to lose this tenderly
unfolding moment. Look for it
as if it were the first green blade
after a long winter. Listen for it
as if it were the first clear tone
in a place where dawn is heralded by bells.

And if all that fails,
wash your own dishes.
Rinse them.
Stand in your kitchen at your sink.
Let cold water run between your fingers.
Feel it.

 
Listen to Pat read her poem: “What I Want to Say”
 

 
WHAT I WANT TO SAY

Well, I was playing, see,
in the shadow of the tabernacle.
I was decorating mud pies
with little brown balls
I found scattered on the ground
like nuts, or berries.
Until some big boy came walking by
and laughed. “Hey,
don’t you know you’re puttin’ goat doo
on your mud pies? I bet
you’re gonna eat ’em, too!”

That day I made a major error
in my creative life.

What I want to say is this:
I liked those little balls
on my mud pies. I was a sculptor,
an artist, an architect. I was
making pure design in space and time.
But I quit
because a critic came along
and called it shit.

~Pat Schneider, from Another River: New and Selected Poems

 
Available from thebookstore if you’d like to get a copy of your own.

 
Listen to Pat read her poem “Truth Enough”:
 

 
TRUTH ENOUGH
 
How much hair do I have? you ask,
sitting straight upon the kitchen stool.
I circle you, cut the fine filigree
silver over your ear.

I tell you the truth: Enough.
There is an echo at the edges of the word
which is the lie: Why, love, you still
have lots and lots of hair!

I have always told you the truth.
Even when you didn’t want to know it,
not all of it, I mean, and if I had my life
to live again from the beginning, all
those choices, I might pick kindness
more, let truth alone to ripen on the tree.

But it is your hair I am cutting
on this ordinary afternoon,
and I am making love,
the circle of white on the kitchen floor
an aura. How black, how thick your hair
was! How in the steamy kitchen,
four children underfoot, grapes picked
for jelly tumbled in the collander, fruit jars
hot, baked bread sliced to steaming slabs
and everywhere outside the crimson leaves
falling — there in that confusion,
did I cut your hair?

Today the house is silent. Leaves fall,
but they do not seem to clatter
red against the gold the way they used to do.

Our children watch us delicately from portraits
on the wall. After all,
you say, how much hair do I have?

Enough, I say. I don’t want to talk.
There is an aura on the kitchen floor,
and I am making love.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~Pat Schneider, from Another River: New and Selected Poems

 
Available from thebookstore if you’d like to get a copy of your own.
 

Saturday, 05 January 2013 15:28

Here is a new poem — too new to know if it is any good — to wish you a safe and happy new year. For those of you who want news of us – read on below.

HOW TO RIDE A PLANET

Well, you are in the shower
and it’s still dark outside.
The bathroom is a tiny one
your teenaged son and his father built
before either of them knew how.
It’s really dark outside.
It’s wet inside, but a cozy,
drippy, shower-wet
and you’re feeling pretty good.

Then you notice in the corner
of the shower, on a wet, white tile,
a rather handsome spider
trying with all her (?) might
to climb the wall.

You have tried to climb walls.
You watch her grope for purchase,
lose it, try again.
You wonder if the nice, wet warm
to you, is nice to her.
You doubt it.

Then you notice that her front legs
no longer can hold on
although the other six seem steady.
She can’t move from the square
she was on when you first saw her.

You imagine her fall. Can spiders swim?
You consider fear, and can’t find any.
You are not afraid.
Except for her.

You reach outside the shower
to a stack of navy blue and white cloths.
You choose white.
She is black – she will look good in white.

Carefully you hold the white terrycloth
below her back-most legs,
touch them with it,
and she drops onto the cloth,
an aerial acrobat
letting go of climbing walls.
She falls into the safety net.

You hold the white cloth

with its small black rider
between your two hands
and lay it gently on top of the pile.

How elegant she looks!

You wonder
how she liked her ride.
And you can see yourself
riding on a planet
that you, too, cannot comprehend,
let alone the greater questions:
who gave me a place to fall?
And why?

~Pat Schneider
December, 2012

This is to thank you for being in our lives, and to apologize for this wimpy holiday response to cards, calls, and just plain old love however it gets expressed.. I wish I was able to send you each a beautifully designed something or other, but I am still at the (hopefully far) ragged edge of a (so far) 2 and 1/2 month inability to walk without cane or walker — blog and email is what I am able to manage right now.

We aren’t sure (still!) of the exact cause of my left leg going on full strike, but a variety of western and eastern medical experts here in the valley and in Boston are deciding that it has its root in my having not realized (here I quote one of the doctors) “You cannot live the life you lived at 50 when you are 78!” In other words, to quote my Ozark grandma, “I plumb near wore my fool self out.” I am, in short, having to re-invent myself from a middle-aged woman to an old woman. I like old women, so this is not a horrific idea for me; it’s just that my skill bank at being an Old Grey Mare isn’t of the highest caliber.

The good news is that my new book, How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice, will be released by Oxford University Press on March 1st. Our youngest daughter, Bethany Schneider’s first novel has been bought by various publishers for readers in five nations (US, Britain, France, Italy and Spain) and will be released in North America by Penguin in May. It is River of No Return, and her pseudonym is “Bee Ridgway” (my mother’s maiden last name, and “Bee” is what her partner, Kate calls her for a first name. And our son, Paul Schneider’s fifth book for Henry Holt will be released in September, a history of the Mississippi River titled Old Man River. His wife, Nina Bramhall is a professional photographer and tennis instructor. Laurel and her new wife, Emilie Townes, are moving from being professor at Chicago Theological Seminary (Laurel) and dean at Yale (Emilie) to being together at Vanderbilt — professor of theology, philosophy and women’s studies (Laurel) and dean of the entire theological school, (Emilie). Becca is finishing her second term as chair of theater, speech and dance at Brown University and she and her new husband, Will Rogers, are both looking forward to her being just a professor again. She may have time for her kayak again! Our two grandkids are indeed grand: Sarah writing her dissertation in education, Natty entering college in the fall.

There are exciting things being planned for my book — releases on both coasts, book party in NYC and possible readings and workshops in North Carolina, Sacramento, Ontario, — maybe even Ireland. I plan to be fully mobile, up-and-at’em, by the first weekend in April when AWA’s book launch here in the valley is planned the weekend of April 6 and AWA West and Pacific School of Religion’s planned book launch for me in Berkeley the weekend of April 27. I would love to see you at any of these events.

Warm best wishes and happy 2013. May all your days be merry and bright.

Pat

Pat’s poems have been read sixteen times by Garrison Keillor on Writers Almanac.

Click on the dates to hear Keillor read each:

Middle Age
Apr. 26, 2004

PAT & GARRISON KEILLOR 2014

Welcoming Angels

Dec. 28, 2002

Dec. 28, 2003

Oct. 17, 2008

Personal Address

Dec. 20, 1996

Dec. 20, 1997

Dec. 20, 1998

Oct. 17, 2008

The Patience of Ordinary Things

Oct. 27, 2008

Lessons

Nov. 3, 2008

Middle-Age

Jan. 18, 2009

To A High School Senior

Jul. 10, 2009

Overnight

Aug. 13, 2009

Sound of the Night Train

Sep. 26, 2009

I Was Mean to You Today

Jan. 4, 2010

How the Stars Came Down

Sep. 20, 2010

 
 
Pat and Peter

Garrison Keillor has read one of Peter’s poems on Writers Almanac.

Click on the date to hear Keillor read his poem:

The Thumb
Nov. 7, 2009

Leafflowerautumnwinter

Click on each of the pictures above for a poem.

ENDING

The beginning of the end is a beginning.
The end of anything can be an art.
Giving up the greed, the lust for winning
Is the hardest part.

To be an artist of the end requires praising
Not just what went before, but what’s to come.
The fact of ending is itself amazing;
The lines that will define it, never plumb.

Beginning is a gift that comes unbidden,
But ending can be crafted like an art.
What lies beyond is mystery, and hidden.
Ending can be wholeness of the heart.

Summon heart, and its companion, breath,
To make an art of what we know as death.

~ Pat Schneider
Another River: New and Selected Poems
Amherst Writers & Artists Press

 
 
 
 
 

Leafflowerautumnwinter

Click on each of the pictures above for a poem.

SO FAR

……for Pat

So far
it is an illusion
the way we go.

The hill behind the barn
reverses direction.
Going up is now coming down —
a small reorientation in the mind.

We walked on water
at the end of the drive.
Future, a map, undressed us
as for another part.

We remain. Standing now
on the western horizon
sloping off
fall leaves all around.

~ Peter Schneider
Line Fence
Amherst Writers & Artists Press

 
 
 
 
 

Leafflowerautumnwinter

Click on each of the pictures above for a poem.

GOING HOME THE LONGEST WAY AROUND

we tell stories, build
from fragments of our lives
maps to guide us to each other.
We make collages of the way
it might have been
had it been as we remembered,
as we think perhaps it was,
tallying in our middle age
diminishing returns.

Last night the lake was still;
all along the shoreline
bright pencil marks of light, and
children in the dark canoe pleading
“Tell us scary stories.”
Fingers trailing in the water,
I said someone I loved who died
told me in a dream
to not be lonely, told me
not to ever be afraid.

And they were silent, the children,
listening to the water
lick the sides of the canoe.

It’s what we love the most
can make us most afraid, can make us
for the first time understand
how we are rocking in a dark boat on the water,
taking the long way home.

~ Pat Schneider
Another River: New and Selected Poems
Amherst Writers & Artists Press

 

Listen to Pat read it here:


 
A broadside of this poem signed by both Barry Moser and Pat Schneider is available through the bookstore.
 
 
 

PATIENCE 125Writing 125Pat and Peter 125Ending 125

Click on each of the pictures above for a poem.

THE PATIENCE OF ORDINARY THINGS

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

~ Pat Schneider
Another River: New and Selected Poems
Amherst Writers & Artists Press
 
Chair - Summer morning THE PATIENCE OF ORDINARY THINGS

Window – Summer Morning – Dorset by Fanny Rush
Oil on Canvas, 67cm x 67cm

 
*The painting above the stairs in Pat’s home is by one of Britain’s most preeminent artists, Fanny Rush. She contacted Pat to request using “The Patience of Ordinary Things” as a theme poem in the catalogue, and as title for her upcoming show, and made a gift of a print of the painting for Pat. Her work can be seen at www.fannyrush.com.

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Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) is the organization that is carrying on the work Pat established and carried on for more than 30 years. To discover how you can write with an AWA Method Group, or become trained as an AWA facilitator, please click this link.