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Sample Poems by Penelope Scambly Schott

Pestering the Slug

It glistened by the step,
chocolate brown with knobs on its horns.

I pulled out a stalk of grass and tickled
the slug’s patterned back.

Next I poked at the light and shiny belly.
The slug curled itself up.

With my huge hand, I hoisted
the slug onto a wad of dry grasses

and let it plunk down again.
I closed my eyes.

I opened my eyes.
The uninjured slug had uncurled itself

and lifted its flexible horns,
and now it was oozing away

from the step, moving fast
for a slug,

whereupon, for the first time in my long
and mostly harmless life,

I briefly understood
the unblameable charm of evil.


No one lives in the empty house
except God and me.

We share it with little brown bats
who keep the same hours as God.

Bats slide through the broken louvers
at the north end of the attic, scraps

of prayer

tucked under each warm wing.
These prayers are frayed. Nobody

ever bothers to attend to them.
This one, for example,

for the thirty-day-old baby Ismail Gul
in a Kabul refugee camp:

He was never warm in his entire life,
said the grieving father,

not once.

I sort the prayers by merit or whim
right here under the vent

on top of these scuffed leather valises
where God—where all the gods

we’ve ever invented—can be trusted
to ignore them.


Drive with care and use Sinclair. 26c a gallon.
Under the green Sinclair dinosaur,

the man stuck a stick into oil and wiped the stick
with a blue rag.

In Granddaddy’s new Buick, me and my little sister
rode all afternoon,

the road getting longer and skinnier behind us.
My great-grandmother

had disappeared, and nobody bothered to tell me.
How could I learn about history

as everything got farther away?
Granddaddy’s pipe smoke bent over and trailed out

the wing window of the car.
The shop where we stopped for rum raisin cones

sold enormous wrapped caramel popcorn balls
tied with a red bow,

but I couldn’t have one and soon I’d be too old
to want one.

Or what if the new car crashed and all of us died
right that minute—

Granddaddy’s pink head shiny under his fedora
and my poor baby sister

stuck forever at too young to read?

Memorial Day on South Greeley Avenue

Holding it high and true
for our sixth grade Girl Scout troop

Our American flag
my American flag

Holding the heavy pole steady
in a pouch strapped by my crotch

It was the first time anything important
hung between my legs

My tears scalded and dripped
for Yorktown and Gettysburg and Normandy

for every young man
who was my dead Uncle Bubs

I could do as a girl on South Greeley Avenue

could ever count as much
as that day when I led the parade