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Sample Poems by Penelope Schott

The Average #2 Yellow Pencil

draws a line approximately thirty-five miles long
which is not nearly far enough away.

By now you may have worn out the eraser.
Or if you're brave you can use a pen.

Clasp your pen by its metal throat
but don't choke it.

It will tell everything without being tortured.
It will confess how years ago there was that house

where even the silver knives and the forks
were terrified of Sunday dinner.

Yes, sweetie pie, I mean that pointed house
where your given name was Wrong.

Six Years Old on Her Grandparents' Porch

Her life seemed like two nights and one day
where the first night had been birth
and the last night would be her death
and that single long day stretched so far ahead
filled up with future and furniture
she could almost rock in the white wicker chair
and forgive the world for making her a child
who sometimes still needed to hide
behind the rocker where the porch screen
pressed tiny diamonds onto her young cheek
while the man on the tall Sunday Philco
preached grandly Do unto others
but this girl didn't want to be done unto
no she did not want to be so undone

303 Fairview Avenue

Beneath high cupboards of the butlery with the jam-jar my Nana filled and emptied and washed and dried every morning of every summer of my whole childhood and which is here in my china cabinet, and back in that locked attic with the wind-up gramophone and the boxes of thin letters from my uncle who died in the Pacific, and also in the words we were instructed not to say: Hey is for horses, or horses sweat, men perspire, women glow, I am still glowing in the yellow light of so many summers: My luv is like a red red rose on the screened porch, and Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms over the bed, the century given to me from the beginning, last skirmish of the Indian wars and the War to End War, to the first jagged flicker of black and white on Howdy Doody afternoons, a distant childhood without breasts or bleeding, a place that is still in me and inside my grown children as they clip bunches of grapes off stems with Nana's grape shears, here I stand as a stranger in the 21st Century, and whoever will know me must remember streetcars, remember sparks, remember a split pen nib dipped into bottled ink and rolling out, Palmer method. I am a foreigner here on my hard disk but in Nana's footed porcelain compote dish, I am the wrinkled peach and I am also the seed.

Medical History

When were you born?

At the wrong time: a war starting,
my mother abandoning her degree.

What diseases run in your family?

Two left feet, severe competence,
tin ears, virulent know-it-all-ism.

What illnesses have you suffered?

Divorce, divorce, heartbreak, shortage
of cash, recurring attacks of despair.

What medicines are you currently taking?

Sunshine, daily strolls up Dufur hill,
red wine, poetry, warm buttered toast.

Do you use any assistive devices?

Bad jokes, sometimes my husband,
that red wine. And yes, the dog.

How do you plan to die?

Too soon or late, but not in May. I can't
quit breathing during lilac season.

What will you leave when you're gone?

Six delicate Limoges cups, five saucers,
the absence of my shadow on the ground.