EP&M Poetry

Jan Schreiber

Six Poems

The Reach
     by Jan Schreiber

Scintillans – bright specks
on windchopped azure water.
Illusory path through islands
curving till colors blur
in summer’s salt-fresh air.

This astral ocean or
the longed-for starkest sky,
black beyond blue, and cold,
undoes you. Do not try
to penetrate the glass.

Vowing not to be touched,
to avoid the messy essence,
you followed her out past
the jetty, breath gone, do you
remember? Wagered and lost.

At no removes, the sea
with its Medusa smile
chastens and abides
in swells. There’s so much guile
in beckoning. Meanwhile

forsake awareness; be
a thing like every thing,
as the dragonfly hovers,
vibrating, over endless
boom and rush and sting.

Sea Change
     by Jan Schreiber

In the cold sea loom
piscine shadows that were
men pursuing, once, real
heaven among the wrecks.
Eyes that can never close
steer the implacable
heatless bodies through
currents that move like storms
over the shifting floor.

The vitreous salt womb
comforts them. They prefer
to imagine that they feel
love or the tug of sex
teasing them as they doze,
among the strands of blue-
green undulating forms,
marina paramour.

Dangerous to resume
after the sensuous blur,
and let awareness steal
back. This one bungled the next
foray: an artful pose
with the insatiable
among the Malibu
half-naked sandy swarms
too flagrant to ignore.

Was he the one for whom
she had spread open her
nets? Whom first rays reveal
gasping on the deck’s
dark shambles in the throes
of unendurable
change? Who briefly knew
land life that dulls and warms
in the last trip to shore?

     by Jan Schreiber

From the vantage deck
beside the ocean’s arm
at the rock’s edge, look
up at the gull, her form
skimming the current, cruising
corridors high to low,
catching a draft and rising
to veer on air, to see
the sea’s blue belly lift,
spread and recede.
                            The mind
must guess at flight, bereft
of levity by wind
that holds a seagull’s body in
its light embrace but drops
our mundane flesh and bone.
We can’t throw off such hopes:
for us, flying is longing.

If she were one of us –
alert, reflective, winging
through memory’s edifice –
might the rich air grow pale
for her, and cease to hold?
And could our rocky soil
contain her then and weld
her to this lesser earth?

She’s spared the double vision
we endure, that with
each bliss reveals occasion
for despair. And even though
we have contrived machines
to bring us nearer to
our fantasies, no gains
of craft can overcome
the body’s weight and drag
or halt the furtive dream
of light limbs and the big
             It is our loss.
With bones of magnetite,
we crave the emptiness
of single-minded flight.

Closing Time at the Freedom Lounge in Vassalboro
     by Jan Schreiber

It’s not that bad tonight.
Scoop was too drunk to fight.
Sox lost. Nomar’s got heart.
Guy owes me rent paid part.
Buddy dropped by to say
his daughter’s due in May.
I haven’t heard from mine
in eight years – but I’m fine.
Still on the haul. The days
get longer. Got a ways
to go to clear this debt.
It’ll take years of sweat.

I’m on the highway. Wide
rigs close on either side.
We’re racing past this town.
It’s too late to slow down.
The squeal, the crash, the flame
annihilating blame,
then white heat everywhere.
And you can only stare
into this hell and see
the beauty of the burning:
my flesh and fury turning
to ash and breaking free.

Judgment Day
     – after Max Beekmann's“Auferstehung”

When we dead awaken
our first need will be
something to wear. Outfitters
will supply new bodies
in small, medium, large
to cover these old bones.
Step in, zip up. Eyes
to the left, brains to the right.
Get one a little large –
you can grow into it.
Time now for a mirror.
Adjust expression and gait.
You may have slept nine thousand
years in earth, but why
look like it? I’d say some mouthwash
is not a bad idea,
and then a new suit, and shoes.
Remember your appointment.

No pushing now. You’ve waited
this long to see the Judge,
a little more won’t hurt.
Time to think again
of what you're going to say.
Got your story straight?
Remember you will have
some explaining to do
on matters you can’t gloss over.
Still want to go through with it?
You know there’s time to shed
your new disguise and climb
back in your hole to dream
the old dreams you know best.

But you were always a risk taker.
Ah well, so are the others,
and the Judge is tired.
Perhaps you'll be in luck.
Step smartly now. Walk straight
to the bench when your name is called
and speak up clearly with
the trumpet blast
still ringing in your bones.

What Remains
     by Jan Schreiber

Far from all cities, in a small resort,
along the unnamed streets that dip and curve
down past the lakefront, under sun and cloud,
children are riding bicycles through puddles.
Men in short pants and sandals lick ice cream cones
while strolling toward the park. Another storm
is on the way. Inside the low stone house
the storekeeper’s wife is sewing a summer dress,
while on a record Dinu Lipatti plays
a chorale prelude of Bach. She feels her soul
expand into a calm,
as if a question troubling her were solved,
as if she had achieved a thing she sought.
Escape? Or triumph? Merely a wish to fly?
She doesn’t know.

Dance with the storekeeper’s wife – a sarabande
across the years. Live in the notes that light
the briefest interval between the rainstorms.
See her threading a needle while she listens.
Hear how the music turns. Keep time. Keep time ...

Jan Schreiber often appears on these pages as a critic and as a poet.  He also appears in other venues, such as Edge City Review, Pivot and many more.  He has over the years also been a publisher, among other things.

The Reach; Sea Change;
Closing Time at the Freedom Lounge in Vassalboro;
Judgment Day; Flight; What Remains

are each
Copyright © 2004 by Jan Schreiber
 All Rights Reserved