Jan Zlotnik Schmidt

“Dream: An Angel at A Hundred” by Jan Zlotnik Schmidt

Dream: An Angler at Hundred

If my father were a fisherman, he would dig his crooked toes into the sand at the shore to make them disappear, a thick tangle of green and brown seaweed twisting around his ankles, Shards of purple mussels and waves of indigo and brown clam shells would scrape against his shins, as the tides rolled in. Then after gazing at the thin white line of the horizon, he would chisel the fishing pole into a mound of sand, flick the line with a twitch of his wrist, angle it beyond the waves, a thin curve of black wire gone into the sea. He’d hold it steady in a high arch, and occasionally wriggle it a bit to test the waters, to see if fish would snap at the bait.

But this is all a dream. My Brooklyn father never ventured to the sea in this way, never watched the glint of sunlight on the waves, never was satisfied with the infinitesimal arc of the line stretching into the sea.

Instead in the nursing home, I held a conch shell against his ear and then mine. We listened to the barely audible ebb and flow of tides. The whorl of the shell against the whorl of his ear. Never uttering a word, he nodded in time with the tides.

And if I imagined him looking at the sea, gazing into its brightness, he would be thinking about his own being. As fragile as the skeletal bones of a fish gnawed at by voracious time. Or maybe he’d be thinking about his soul—an invisible line into the ocean. Absorbed into some infinite blue or a path of silver light.


Jan Zlotnik Schmidt is a SUNY Distinguished Professor of English emerita at SUNY New Paltz where she taught creative writing, American and Women’s Literature, creative nonfiction, memoir, and Holocaust literature courses. Jan’s work has been published in many journals including The Cream City Review, Kansas Quarterly, The Alaska Quarterly Review, Home Planet News, Phoebe, Black Buzzard Review, The Chiron Review, Memoir(and), The Westchester Review, and Wind. Her work also has been nominated for the Pushcart Press Prize Series. She has had two volumes of poetry published by the Edwin Mellen Press (We Speak in Tongues, 1991; She had this memory, 2000). Recently Jan’s chapbook, The Earth Was Still, was published by Finishing Line Press and another, Hieroglyphs of Father-Daughter Time, was published by Word Temple Press.