Jan Zlotnik Schmidt

Three Poems – Jan Zlotnik Schmidt

The Return

The thick brown stalks sway slightly in fading light
against fallen trunks of oaks, beech, pine,
a chipped white painted fence. She is there
at the same place, the same time, as ten years before.
Then one straggly branch poked out of a bed
of hawthorn, ivy, and rose hips. The pink violet flowers
gone. She remembers a few ovals, slightly luminous—
like a trace of a half-moon in a clouded night sky. .

Now she glances at the grove
of plants firmly rooted despite nor’easters,
hurricanes, snowstorms, and ravaging Cape winds.
The only place she’s discovered them
on journeys on beach roads and sandy trails.
How they’ve multiplied! As her wishes and desires
have waned, as her losses have grown, as her
limbs have creaked, the grove has flourished.

She snaps several branches off. A few
just threaded ovals–the pearl centers gone.
Others dangle shreds like miniature, ragged
strips of cloth. And some half-gone ones are
like white paper cut-outs of children’s masks,
plastered against faces of young trick or treaters,
pin pricks for eyes and open mouths,
grotesque like goblin screams.

Still she sees twigs with intact petals.
She takes one, peels the scarred parchment
shells away. Picks out small brown seeds.
Translucent pearl centers emerge, glimmer in the light.
A silver sheen against the waste of late fall early winter.
Like the fevered breath of dreamers. Incandescent.
The afterglow of youth.

*The Chinese money plant is associated with promises of good fortune, money, and good health



There are signs
women in the shape of deer
of sparrows of wind
spirits chanting
let the world come
and go in you
let the keening come and go
let the world breathe and dream in you

Watch for the shadows
that darken the hearth
the heart can only
travel in sunlight.


The last of the bright light

That last bright light filters down
to bare fingers, bare thoughts
a wobbly body thin as a riven sapling
creaking in a whirl of wind.

To bare fingers, bare thoughts
I give myself to this covid ridden winter
A wobbly body thin as a riven sapling
bending in time in a cold winter world.

I give myself to covid ridden pandemic winter
to find out who I am who I will be
Bending in time in this cold winter world
thinking of what bodies I have lived in and through

To find out who I am who I will be
To stretch myself back into memory
Thinking what bodies and times there were
All of me before this declining third of life.

I stretch myself back into memory
See the small child reading herself into a world
All of me In this declining third of my life
wanting still these resolute words

In that last bright light that filters down.


Jan Zlotnik Schmidt’s work has been published in many journals including the The Alaska Quarterly Review, Cream City Review, and  Kansas Quarterly.  Her work also has been nominated for the Pushcart Press Prize.  Two volumes of poetry were published by the Edwin Mellen Press (We Speak in Tongues, 1991; She had this memory, 2000) and another, Foraging for Light recently was published by Finishing Line Press. (2019).  She recently published a chapbook about Bess Houdini, the wife of Harry Houdini entitled Over the Moon Gone: The Vanishing Act of Bess Houdini.

2 thoughts on “Three Poems – Jan Zlotnik Schmidt”

  1. Cecele. Kraus

    Dear Jan Schmidt,

    I love these poems. Graceful and spare. You say so much.

    Cecele Kraus

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