Spring 2023, Volume 34

Poetry by John Schneider


Her voice still murmurs from the spot deep within
the quarry pond.  Hardly any sun here, just

a disk of dull light sheathed in the luster
of her innocence, rippling the water
with grief, swelling into broken syllables only
my daughter can decipher. The anguish remains
silently painted on her face, as she gazes over
our fence at the gray stucco house where her
friend once lived. Though she didn’t see it
happen, arriving just before the paramedics
and ambulance, before they pulled her out
by her matted cinnamon brown hair,

the story is now hers alone. Nothing remains
beyond her memories but the dead girl’s

favorite tennis shoes, empty, still hanging
by knotted laces from the backyard clothesline

and the cool green ripples of yellow-bellied
snakes and crawdads and weightless water bugs

and the murmurs now prayers held captive
on my daughter’s tongue.


I’m seven, waiting in line with my mother
for the doors of Montgomery Wards to open. 
It’s a chilly December 26th morning.
We’ve come for the half-price tinsel
and ornaments—took the 7:00 am bus.

We stand shivering, my mouth stoppered
with angel food candy.  A woman nearby wears
a camo parka wreathed in a hint of bacon scent.

Why didn’t he come to our house again?
her young son asks.  Gusts fill, then deflate
his nylon windbreaker, his eyes aimed at the half-off
Roy Rogers cap pistol in the store window.

It got late, I’m sure he was tired from working all night,
she says. He missed our house as well! a woman behind us
chimed in with a half-wink towards the mother.

These women make their living checking groceries, cleaning
other people’s houses, emptying diapers
of other mother’s babies.  I had forgotten

there are kids, days after Christmas, still waiting

The Speed At Which Things Fall

The residents struggle against gravity’s pull
to a bleached surface. Stuck in chairs on the worn
floor of the sitting room, their feet always trying
to take root, extract some water from bygone

memories still damp with returning
to a home that can no longer be
returned to; the once fertile earth no longer
rounded with birth. Sometimes, the mind

of a weary pilgrim can lose it,
head spinning, clouds graying, leaves shivering.
Once mighty lips now a stilled horizon.
Eyes gaze at the sun thru a shattered

picture window, Kaleidoscope-like,
a mosaic—seeking a single image
in this jumble of misaligned stars.
Is this what life is like, such vast expanses
moving in to fill a hollowing body?
This semi-permeable wall.  Faces shedding
their names. Footfall missing its stair tread.
The overheavy heads of dahlias placed on her bureau

some weeks ago bow to the weightlessness
of browning leaves scattered around their vase.
And I am afraid of false bloom, that my hands
are not enough to lift and keep her here.




BIO: John Schneider lives and works in Berkeley, California. His debut collection, Swallowing the Light, is forthcoming in 2022 from Kelsay Books. His work has been published in The Worcester Review, Tampa Review, The American Journal of Poetry, California Fire and Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology, and elsewhere. His poetry has been a Merit Award winner in the Atlanta Review 2021 International Poetry Competition He is also a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee.