Joyce Schmid - Île de la Cité, Camping Trip, Pier Three in January
Île de la Cité
And then there was the Cyrano who ran the place,
who walked us up four flights of stairs, concave
with centuries of students walking up and down.
He showed us to our bed, concave with centuries
of people making love.
Everything was too expensive,
even food, and everything cost money, even toilets,
and I always needed one. The disapproving April air
was cold to us, and rained.
But dark, deep coffee, hot,
and camembert thick-spread on top of butter
on fresh bread, la Seine in sun, le musée de Cluny
with medieval tapestries hung everywhere,
and stained glass windows glowing blues and reds,
and you and me, so young.
Emerald Bay, California
Stars flee from cities to the darkness
of a summer night above Lake Tahoe,
remembering the times when they could fascinate
the people of the earth with gods and goddesses,
with omens, magic, miracles,
and heaven part-revealed.
Like birds who know they soon will be extinct,
they fly to forests where they try to hide,
but find the brilliance of their feathers
overwhelms the camouflage of trees.
Next to our campsite
is a pile of granite boulders,
shades of gray with bits of black
and lacy colonies of something green
and tiny glints of shooting stars—
a rock-fall frozen in the moment of its fall,
no echo of the dazzling roar
when ripping down the mountainside,
it gnashed and cracked and crashed
and forced the status quo to break,
and all the reigning trees
rocked madly in the sucking winds
and fell down on their knees.
a cloud of midges flying
water-brilliance filling in
between the skinny lines of trees
a blue jay landing on a chunk of granite,
head cocked in a what’s-for-breakfast stance
a robin close by in a tree
offering a conversation, not to me.
Pier Three in January
Night inhabiting our bodies,
droplets of impending rain,
boats frozen to the shore.
Alcatraz and Berkeley,
mountains, distant plains.
Why are we standing on a pier
that ends so suddenly,
no rail, no sign to let us know
will put us in the bay?
But now I turn around—
pure éclat of unpremeditated light.
Sometimes it’s the turning back
that opens things,
a swath of brilliance in a winter night.
A native New Yorker, Joyce Schmid is a grandmother and psychotherapist living in Palo Alto, California, with her husband of over half a century. Her recent work has appeared in Poetry Daily, Missouri Review, New Ohio Review, Antioch Review, and other journals and anthologies.