Expansive Poetry & Music Online Contemporary Reprint

Jan Schreiber

After publishing several reviews in Expansive Poetry & Music Online, critic and poet Jan Schreiber indicated a sense that "the readers ought to know if the critic can write poetry."  He can.  Some follow, extracted from the chapbook Bell Buoys published by Aliquando Press in 1998 (available from the author through this Web page):

From Bell Buoys by Jan Schreiber, Aliquando Press, 1998. Not to be copied or distributed without the permission of Jan Schreiber. 

Naked on the Island
   by Jan Schreiber

Peace in the house, and in
the distance a high wind.
Move in the web of memory,
neither bound nor free,
hearing the foghorn and
an underlying sound.
Beyond the porch, rock.
Beyond the rock, water.
Beyond the water, water.
Water and the void
beyond the rock, beyond
water, beyond words.
Surely it won’t be long.
Touch hands, lie still, listen
to the rise and fall of breaths
racing through the night.

What’s Left
   by Jan Schreiber

When with my fury fades
the image of these eyes,
when grieving first subsides,
then tactile memory goes,
can you recapture me?
Each year in a private hour
visit the rock-edged sea
where winds across the shore
blow as they used to blow
and in the rhythmic swell
you hear old poems. Now
see what you can recall
from our scant years that feel
precariously real.

   by Jan Schreiber

Through the causeway sluice
the sea pours with the tide.
In rubber thongs I brace
myself for cold and wade
into the shallows on
up-ended blue-black shells
of mussels. As I lean
over their draining pools
they’re savoring the current
through parted beaks. Jammed tight,
barnacle-crusted, ancient
as time, half-calcified:
an underwater lea
endlessly spreading. In knots
of rock and fiber, they
remain immobile, bits
of armored flesh with habits
of plants. I've long been waiting
to pick these flowers, snippets
of sea life for a floating
            But those who dine
on what the oceans yield
have learned a fine disdain.
And knowing that these wild
mussels are slight of flesh
I search the crowded beds
for prizes. In the crush
of shells and stones the odds
of great gain while the tide
permits are small, and yet
one hopes. And so I load
the basket weight by weight,
taking what vision, reach
and chance bring to my hand.
In this attentive crouch
I scavenge in no end
of plenty with the gong
of bell buoys in my ears.
I have been scavenging
in truth down all these years,
with worry at my back
waiting for the random
hand at last to pluck
me from the salty garden
 where I've grown old and sipped
a fraction of the vast
surrounding sea.
                             So rapt
in sea dreams I'm possessed
by rhythms of waves and feel
in ebb and flow of blood
and air a tidal pull
and sunburn on my head.

There’ll be no mussel trance.
I have imbibed the salt-
steeped revery more than once
and afterwards have dealt
with consequence. It’s time
to leave these timeless pools
where, bent and intent, I've roamed
gathering onyx shells.

Finished with musseling,
I make my way to shore
and like a laggard day-
dreaming schoolboy, hearing
the bell and dimly aware,
head home the longer way.

The Quarry

The years have probed essential bone.
Sun's countless lances pierce the skin.
Blue is the blue of childhood kingdoms
lording the multitudes of green.

The young are full of grace and wonder.
Their bodies court a long July.
I am a month or two beyond them,
alert to the longings of decay.

What rhythm captivates the hunted,
sings in his ear to spur his flight?
It was the plainsong that I wanted,
heard in the grasses, though too late.

Flesh is a temporary cover.
Grass clings to stone, lover to lover.

        Jan Schreiber

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