Two Poems by Jessie Schneiderman, first place winner,
The College Alumni Society Prizes, 2003
The last time I saw him was in a picture
In the front of a church and he looked too handsome
Or tall to ever be dead. And the church was too tall so
I wished something was pressing down or heavy
At least, so that we could feel it and not have to feel ourselves.
The only sound I remember hearing was my bench
Creaking as I leaned forward to get a better look
At Nick's face. I wanted to see if he was crying.
His sister stood and sang "Amazing Grace" and I thought
That her voice felt like the leaves I had seen outside, so
I whispered to my mother, How can she do this?
And she said, Remember I asked you to sing "The Rose".
And I said, No you didn't, you asked Abby. But she
Was already closing her eyes, trying to picture the flowers.
A picture of my father's face coats my eyes
And he is dying in my thoughts tonight.
I try to shape the thoughts into windows so we can
Climb out together. I want to know you for a while tonight.
Your hands are like trees--
Can we sit underneath you in the shallow dark tonight?
You can lean forward on us, rest on our backs.
I cannot imagine what sleep would be like tonight.
Are you waiting for my eyes to close?
I feel as if everyone is waiting together tonight.
And Jessie, whether it means gift or God sees--
Always the last to know. You tell me, let silence be our friend tonight.