• Poetry

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.



Camping Trip

Emerald Bay, California


i.

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.


ii.

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.


iii.

a cloud of midges flying

intersecting figure-eights


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

San Francisco


Night inhabiting our bodies,

droplets of impending rain,

boats frozen to the shore.

Darkness holding

Alcatraz and Berkeley,

mountains, distant plains.

You’re shivering.


Why are we standing on a pier

that ends so suddenly,

no rail, no sign to let us know

another step

will put us in the bay?

But now I turn around—

and see

eight hundred-thousand

lit-up windows,

op-art patterns,

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.

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