Poems by Tim Van Schmidt
It’s a trick of the light
Sleight of hand, a certain
Way the curtain of the moment
Waves in the breeze. Flash
On the horizon, glimmer
In the eye, reach around
The gray matter and squeeze.
It slides along a long path
And fixes trees against the sky.
These golden mambos
Sweep the polished floor
And silver streaks of eternity’s hair
Lay soft on passing time.
Friend, hard truth, your
Speed is unmatched. It’s
A trick of the light, sleight of hand,
The way the mind’s joyful deceit
Shoots to the moon.
The Untrodden Snow of the Moon
As though I wear a helmet of space,
A moon spins between my scalp and thought.
Made of a different clay, this moon
Will never feel my feet or
An anxious puff of breath.
No, its snow gathers in darkness,
Vines quickly grow in sun
Without exploration of the human kind.
So complete the unmarred white,
So full the jungle without
Fingers to snap the stem,
Clumsy violence of the human mind.
Far above the electric crackle of brain
The moon flies untouched and yet
Appears very, very close.
Moon calves may wallow,
Another race steps softly
Leaving no print,
But this is the planet I cannot settle:
The moon unknown,
The atom escaping
Even chosen words.
The Temple of Dendur
Look deep into Van Gogh’s eyes,
Reach for peaches red and orange,
Languish hot on yellow beaches;
It’s all the same to me
I have moved finally
In a tired dream
To the Temple of Dendur.
A garish dream
Of taxies screeching
In a noxious Babylon dusk
The carved stones
And breasts and bones
That stack age deep
Within their weight.
The Temple pool shines quietly
With coins of wishes made.
And doors through rooms
Of armor and tombs
Of the spiteful dream
I’ve found and now endure.
A single point of ancient strength
Grows faintly from constant pull;
The places, eyes and fruit stretch
Some music from the noise.
I have come finally
In my lucid dreams
To the Temple of Dendur.
No, I am not lonely
I say, the wind whistling
Through the teeth
Of my adobe ruin.
I sit on the tiles
Embracing a trickling fountain
And hear the coyotes
They tell me, their eyes
Flashing from arroyos:
You must speak up,
Rail into widespread nights,
Paint the dusty world
With your own spit
And make it light,
Make it shine
For your one most precious moment.
And I salute them
Like a tattered flag,
Until finally, closing my eyes,
Ten prickly fingers
Pull me into
The crystal cold desert
And I become the whole day,
The night, saying No,
I am not lonely.
I say I have never been lonely.
There’s no one left to play the trumpet
That stands bell-down on the dusty stage.
There’s no one left to raise the scope
To sight a malicious bull’s-eye.
There’s no point in tapping out a message;
There’s no ear left to shiver in the breeze.
They’ve all gone to the meeting place
Beyond air, soil and water beads.
There’s no more language being traded
Leaving a hole where music was heard.
There’s not a single ripple in the dying wheat
That doesn’t move with the craning earth.
There’s little chance of recognition;
There’s no single eye to wink.
They’ve all gone to the intersection
To lose their names and molecules.
The days and nights endure peace without purpose;
Rocks do not become buildings; trees not books.
No noxious gas makes the sunset suffer;
There’s not a shade of breath, not a memory.
There’s no foot to kick the ball
That does not bounce on the brick street.
They’ve all gone beyond the outpost
Leaving no note, no bill; no directions.
Spite sets down land mines
That crack open, hungry.
Anger rumbles from the ground,
Erupts with wrathful fury.
Not easily killed, this mutant
Stubbornly wrecks the landscape,
Scoops up food, gets bigger.
Tough honesty is a monster
Selfish destiny driving all
Like a primordial instinct,
A bellowing will to survive.
Who knows how many eggs
Will hatch tomorrow even
When the horror lies dead?
My offspring will snap
At the heels of my ghost.
They will multiply, too.
In Memory of Betty Shearer
The highway stretching from
Bone to bone in the skull
is really two oily ribbons; one
named East, one, West.
Dry, desert grass crouches
on either edge and odd yucca bushes
prick the flat yawn of the horizon.
Dust storms sling atomic buck shot
Across the pavement while
The coyote dumbly trots by
A sign with no animal value.
I look, trained to read
And the woman’s name becomes the landscape.
“Betty” painted on stiff, cold metal,
bolted to a pole that shudders as
rushing cells streak past.
Wooden crosses plead for
Anonymous sorrow, skid marks echo
The screeching tire and
One mile is marked by a simple message:
Betty Shearer, missed.
The bugs never know what hit them,
Road kill provides the carrion feast.
But “Betty” greets the streaming bumpers;
A blink, quick ghost;
Memory swept up
By mighty wind, blasting cars.
Achilles rise from the glittering disk,
Ancient killer wielding zeros and ones
Like real steel cleaving sternum
From pulsing digital heart.
Women allow your electronic sweat
To dry on their smooth thighs,
And the hardest of men salute you,
Frightened to look into your flickering eyes.
This call- not made by a pig king
Thirsting to drink the Aegean,
But by a peasant who fishes
Bills from boxes, files from tragic doom-
Cries for heroes, even those
Assembled in circuits from long ago.
Rise Achilles and batter the dread
That comes from wishing to be dead.
Behind the shimmering, sensual curtain
Electric events flash and cool.
But finally survival, nasty and tough,
Is what speeds through the machine
To make blinding the colorful dots.
Grace this common and beguiling screen
With a name worth remembering.
Achilles rise, a burst, immortal digital dream.
The worms living in my legs
Squish around in their busy day.
Any day now they will burst out
And give the one-eyed wink.
Sure my wife hates me,
Friends despise me, I
Listen to all they say
With sharp, agonized offense.
Voices haunt the head, warn
About paying the price to sleep.
Do it now, they insist, but
They really just want me to fail.
Living in Las Vegas
Each hour is a bulb in
A row of bulbs burning in
A swirl of ornament greeting
The human circus. Volcanoes
Burn, white tigers sulk and leap,
Taxies push across lane lines.
Hotels build themselves and coins
Settle to the carpet,
Bills evaporate, change
Hands, many more hands,
Pass in an endless dream of
Knowing what never comes: rest.
Enter the friendly palace, weave
Between stretch pants and knit shirts,
Be amazed and let moral fences fall.
Excite the spirit of Sodom with
A loud slap on the smooth rump.
Everything touched turns
To money, an electric charge,
A city built in Western desolation.
Living in Las Vegas, honesty is
A certain way bodies
Pulse and move to
Every wallet’s desire.