Jan Zlotnik Schmidt

You will never exist in memory, in yesterdays. 

You always will be here today

talking with me in the halls.

Telling me a story about an ethnic writer

whose work we both admire.


I see you at your desk, head bent

over a student’s paper,

the white page covered in your

tight penciled script.


I hear your words at department

meetings, speaking truth to power,

(to use a cliché), getting to the heart

of a debate,  piercing through pleasantries.


And I see us commiserating

about bureaucratic rules and regs

or the pernicious effects of social media

as we devour broiled lemon chicken

at the College Diner (the best you said).


And I still taste the garlicky guac

you brought to every department party.

The chef in you relishing

homegrown and farm to table food.


I remember poetry evenings.

One time at Bard we listened to Joyce Carol

Oates’s cat poems that she recited

in a mincing voice.


We squashed our laughter.

So foolish you and I agreed.

Your keen sense of beauty,

your love of the perfect conceit

outraged at her slapdash, sloppy verse.


At home I open a folder of my old poems

and there it is.  There you are counseling me.

Your penciled recasting of my words

so much better, perfected in a way

I couldn’t imagine.


Your brilliance still streaks

across my world like a wayward

comet, or star showers, unexpected,

lighting up a dark, night sky


You will never be a ghost,

a revenant from another world.

You will always be fully here.

Fully Present.

In words, in thoughts, in deeds.



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Shawangunk Review Volume XXXII Copyright © 2021 by Jan Zlotnik Schmidt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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