Sunday 26 February 2023

Four Poems by Fran R. Schumer


First Snow


It snowed last night

the first dusting of the season

a fine powder, the thrill

of school being cancelled

skating on frozen asphalt

hurling snowballs, dodging them

on closed off city streets.

My mother’s wretched hot chocolate,

store bought and watery,

the thrill of marshmallows

melting into a froth on top.

I’m long past the age,

still the feeling returns,

the years melt into a froth.

I am forever young

reborn at this --

first white light.





When I asked my older brother,

valedictorian of his kindergarten class

(our immigrant grandmother hung

the newspaper clipping on her fridge)

and later valedictorian of our high school,

who was the smartest person

he knew he said Ezra S——.

Handsome in a craggy way,

Black, curly hair —

beaked nose chiselled

out of his pale, smooth

soft flesh —

he went to Caltech but

not to Los Alamos

not to solve Fermat’s Last theorem

he practiced herbal medicine instead,

new and intriguing in ’78.

He played piano in a jazz trio,

married the painter, the intense Lady S.,

lived apart in a forgettable town.

He distrusted business

so when he was diagnosed

with skin cancer, too late —

he googled do it yourself

and built his own coffin.

When I told my older brother,

he laughed, the sound of sorrow.

That’s so Ezra, he said.



Market Hill Road


In a house on a ridge

in a town in the country

where my aunt and uncle

lived across the street

from a barn — a sign said

Leonard’s Eggs — a window

looked into another and

through that other showed

sky — nothing else.

In it, I saw everything.


In a different town at the end

of a different street loomed

the Rocky Mountains — all of them.

In summer, sun shone off

their hazy peaks; in winter,

white rivulets of melting ice

dripped down their massive flanks.

The mountains calmed me,

whispered wait. I was lonely.

They were my everything.


In this last town — maybe —-

a mess of dogs and people

pushing pedals, strollers,

stoops and brownstones,

leafy branches through

which sometimes show sky,

I see my old town, the triggering town —

where the subway carried me

out of childhood and into Manhattan.

I was never lonely there.

In the faces of strangers

I saw everything.





So it’s Thanksgiving a year later

our first without you,

without each other.

With you gone, we scatter

like jewels on a necklace

the clasp unsprung.

We’re everywhere

and nowhere

— without you.


So it’s Thanksgiving a year ago

the hospital windows dark

but for the twinkling

of holiday traffic below.

Your lungs drowning in fluid

the night full of black holes

The nurse gives you laudanum

mercy killing — something

for which to give thanks.


So it’s Thanksgiving, 1958

We stand on soda crates

to better see the parade

Tom Thumb, Sinbad,

Atlas holding up the world.

Afterward, we sip hot chocolate,

the wool of your coat

warming our frozen cheeks.

We're bound by our love for you

your love for us --

forever, even scattered --

for this we give thanks.


Fran R. Schumer’s poetry, fiction, and articles have appeared in various sections of The New York Times; also, Vogue, The Nation, The North American Review, and other publications. She won a Goodman Loan Grant Award for Fiction from the City University of New York and in 2021, a Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing poetry fellowship. In 2022, her poem, Memento Mori, was a winner of the Martha’s Vineyard Poet Laureate’s 2022 Contest. Her Chapbook, Weight, was the first runner up in the Jonathan Holden Poetry Chapbook Contest, and was published in 2022 by Choeofpleirn Press. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., she studied political science at college but wishes she had spent more time studying Keats.

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