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Mary Schmitt

Job Speaks to Betty, the Organizer of His Book Tour

I sank a wide bowl of wine inside me, Betty,
at the reception after this reading. I don’t blame you.
Tonight, you gave me a well-mannered crowd, 

they turned off their cell phones without being asked,
sat up straight on their trim American behinds.
The women cried softly at the harrowing parts,
when I read verse about the deaths of my children.
And now you have your own book, named after you,
said someone when I’d finished reading,

then came the turn that always startles me, applause,
followed by the signings, the hearty sales.
I smiled my thin smile of nervous relief as I signed, 
and sold. 

I need a cauldron of gold, of debit card treasure, 
to maintain what God gave after my long wail of loss:
the new holdings and herds, the new scatter of children. 
I have to strike my wordy flint while the iron is red;
I don’t think I have another book inside me.

As I said, a deep bowl of wine tonight, a pit,
at the afterglow. My dead children’s faces, pale, 
unripe berries, kept showing themselves to me,
then the face of my faraway wife, her own pallor,

her stunned enormous uncomprehending eyes.
She called out Be still to our children
as they moved between the tables piled with wine
and platters of pricey vegan wafers,

their legs flashed like moving sheep sheers,
playing their children’s game of hide and seek.
A game without shouting, or echoes of laughter.
Just the spin of their small churning legs.

You’re a clever woman, Betty, a kind one.
Perhaps I can find you a good husband
among my tribe of new acquaintances.
Because you were born to have children,
Betty, with those big ship-bell hips.
I want to give you presents, gifts with meaning,
goats or a man or a tied bundle of something,

because you book my readings

because I like to watch the sway of your hips

because you listen to my drunken babble
without sighing or opening your lips,
just with your cupped hand molded to my shoulder

when I tell you about my quiet brutal nights
after my first set of children died,
when I knew I could only love again in a numb fumble,
behind a cloud or a groan or an acre of wine.

I stared up at the cold stars for hours, Betty.
Brutal and quiet; goddamn you, God, yes.
Stared at stars broken off from pattern. Constellation.

How To

Begin with the walls of your living room,

no longer just green but a sage green so deep

the scent of moss and morning

Is stronger than your coffee’s aroma.

Slow your breath,

your eyes,


here is the wall to the left of the archway;

square in the wall’s center,

black and white photo of a pond

touched by rising sun.

Let your arms rise, too,


In front of the photo,

Its black and white,


Its gray dawn


make a frame in the air with your hands,

those hands that have held the face,

been given the kiss,

of so much nervous, angry, complicated love.

See –

allow yourself to see –


another rush of alchemy,

every bundle of light

opened in each of the photo’s clouds,

pulsed through the photo’s mud-rimmed island,

the many grays of grass breaking tall through water.


Then lower your hands.

Touch the worn, pretty clock of your own face.

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