Three Poems

Upon Coming Back to an Empty House 

I flip through old photos and find 
a black and white I took in Menemsha 
following a dinner of lobster and blueberry pie.
Three women walking past a fishing shack 
with nets and shark fins nailed onto its peeling 
red sides. My girlfriend and her mother 
and sister, alike in skirts and flowered blouses,
walking into the dusk, walking into 
the sweet sadness of good things coming 
to an end. Pancake breakfasts, the days 
at the beach, reading in wicker chairs 
on the porch, the lullaby of foghorns 
and bell buoys. Walking into their differences--
a marriage with me and three kids, the final 
years alone in a cottage, a cross-country 
move to a new career and a husband 
for a while. But now, these slender shapes 
are merely leaving, strolling down the wooden 
dock about to turn and call out to me to come 
along, about to fade into the darkness. 


Wolf Watch

The search goes on. 
The three year-old in her daddy’s arms 
riding him like a nightmare 
shrieks as he paces down the hallway. 
He half believes: over there, around 
the corner--it’s breathing!

On call for baby cries, 
the nursing mother sleeps alone now
while father dozes on the floor 
beside their big girl’s bed, 
remembering his childhood wolves. 
They shivered his bones at dusk,
swam snarling on the walls at night. 

And the wolf? 
She sleeps in her crib, six months old, 
breathing roughly, sprouting teeth. 
Or say the wolf stirs 
in little sister too, ready 
to blow the house down.



We enter the spacious, two-story lobby 
of Park Manor and notice no peeling wallpaper--
so far it seems to be a clean, well-lighted place. 
Barbi! greets us with her biggest professional 
smile and hands us a catalogue and brochures.
They offer companionship, appropriate levels 
of care, and trips to restaurants and the symphony. 
Mom nods, and I ask intelligent questions.

My oldest child is about to go to college,
and here I am again checking out programs, 
a dining plan and a dormitory. As we take
the tour, we begin to believe in this place, 
in the jazzercise room opening onto a grassy 
knoll with benches, in the dining room with its 
long salad bar, and yes, in the ice-cream social 
every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Wrinkling her nose, Barbi! tells us we’re 
in luck. If we wish to be naughty, we can 
go right now for ice cream with hot fudge 
sauce! This is mom’s language, so we march
down to a place where we find a half-dozen 
silent women seated at tiny, wrought-iron 
tables, chewing ice cream. Two stooped 
men wait in line, staring at the floor. 

Maury, the one with the walker, 
looks up, nods to us, we think, aims 
his walker our way and then shuffles 
out of line. Here he comes, mumbling 
to mom who says she’ll take a pass, 
thankyouverymuch, and pulls me 
through the lobby, calling out, 
we’ll let you know! to Barbi

who’s rap tap tapping after us in 
stiletto heels, holding out more 
brochures, but we’re making it 
to the glass doors, and glimpses 
beyond of beds of blue and yellow
and pink flowers by palm trees 
with bright birds darting about 
in the streaming sunlight. 

—Jim Schneider, Madison, WI