by Tim Van Schmidt

Air and Words

If I jumped from the plane
I would want words to
Be the parachute. First,
I would glide in freefall
Straight through the freeze,
Speed measured by
How tiny parcels below
Get bigger, lines reaching
Definition, clouds sifting
Through my beard. But then
I would yank the cord,
Let letters stream above,
Making friction, scooping me
From the faithless plunge.
They save me, stop
The nameless dive by
Making meaning, joining
The world of shapes with
Electricity of mind,
Offering choice. So thin
This cloth of ideas,
So much like the vapor
That looks full above,
But like wet smoke within.
The earth rises
To accept my feet,
The atmosphere resounds
With a lifeline spoken:
This jump, I will survive.

River Reflection

Into the depth of no longer alone
My stone falls free toward silt and sleep.
And like the leaves drawn from the autumn
I am taken by the river fast and through,
My reflection becomes the future.


The water pure foamed
Over rocks slanted just
For such a cold, clear run.
Emmaline lay at the top,
A stunning, windswept source, quiet,
A haunt for marmot,
A bowl for the raptor’s swift dive,
Squirming fish for lunch. Up there
You could feel the snowfields melt
Under your feet, greet
The tiny tundra flowers, behold
The one magnificent columbine
Standing by itself in the blow.
Crisp, air thin, knobs
Picketed by a million trees below,
Huge white cornices hanging
Above the chill, gnarly treeline.
Emmaline splits into a gush
That pools, but must
Push down against the stone.
All you have to do is look up
And have Emmaline’s cold grace,
Her wild, loud hair,
Wash it all away.

Living at Treeline

You must be tough
As the wind strips skin,
Snow bites the face and thighs.
But stand, pierce the horizon:
The rock field is a chunky desert.
Meaning is simple water.

Canyon in Wyoming

With folded hands and bended knee
The twisted trees flow from the rock.
Gravity pushes everything down slope
But small purple flowers, long
Haired grasses take root;
Time moves slow, drama
Does not count.
Lichen orange and green,
Moss grows in soft round tufts
On boulders poised
For a thousand year drop.
Life buzzes between the cracks,
Delicate spider trails streak in the sun.
The old trunks rot and roll.
Pine needles, dried up cones
Become the slanted crunching carpet
Where birds and rodents rule.
Gentle quietness mixes
With the press of the wind.

Basketball Days

After a long, dark time
The days have lengthened
Because of good, not pain.
It’s like the ball dropping in-
No backboard, no rim,
Just air and net.
It doesn’t matter how many times
You connect, it’s just
That you can play:
Let the ball fly
Through the crisp, blue air
At the foot of heaven’s steps.
The day has just begun.


Fountain trickling like
A nightbird’s song;
Courtyard dark,
Lemons high and dry.

Up there, Orion
Spreads across space.
Here, a son
Feels full grace.

Headlights wheel across
Stucco walls, comfortable rooms.
The gates let in a breeze,
Love and limes, high and dry.

Dreaming of the Pyramids

Deep inside them is
The mystery that will not unfold.
Not like so many other places:
Red Square at ten below;
The sunset beyond volcanoes
On strange Lake Atitlan.
In a flower field lit
By the Tyrolean full moon. There
Will be more: Picasso in Spain,
Las Vegas in winter, a ride
On a ferry across the sound.
Pick many directions, but I know
You can’t take them all.
So the widespread angles of
Pointed desert tombs
No doubt will be one
I will have to miss, leaving
Me a place I can visit
In my dreams: sun baked
Focus of eternal pause.

Heat Lightning

The wind has stirred up the desert
And the mesquite and prickly pear glow.
Clouds belch out light
Filling the sky,
Spitting electric acid
Onto dry streambeds and hills.
Out there are pot shards,
Dusty orange and half-buried,
And the wide eyes
Of dogs and wild pigs.
They turn a quick and sudden blue
Over in the deep wasteland.


The hills have an immeasurable history:
Shot up, rounded off and draped
With the windblown soil of fancy.
There is no continental divide here,
Just wide rocky land.
Would there be billboards
And signs on Mars,
Tubes and wires- roads?
So tiny in the desert sweep-
Pocked but firm,
Blasted and unconcerned.
Mars is a name too big
For a map, a flag- so far away.
I roll across Southwestern Earth
But see another planet.