"Ardor" nominated for a Pushcart Prize, fall 2007
"Verliefd" receives first honorable mention in the Santa Barbara Summer Poetry Workshop fellowship competition, summer 2007
Santa Barbara Writer's Conference fellowship awarded through Community of Voices competition for "Bark," summer, 2003
"Umbilical" and "Walnut Fruit," forthcoming, Stand
"Angelus Mortis" and "Umbilical," fall 2008, Phoebe
"Venus of Willendorf," summer 2008, North American Review,
"The Weird Vegetarian Poem,"2008, the anthology Hunger and Thirst
"Miscarriage," Spring/Summer 2008, Soundings East
"Miscarriage," 2008, Mourning Sickness: Stories and Poems about Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss
"Veil," Spring 2008, MotherVerse
"Maw," May 2008, the anthology The Mom Egg
"Junkie," March 30, 2008, Mamazine
"Seraphim," March 2008, Literary Mama
"Minnesota," 2007, the anthology Alternatives to Surrender
"Nude," Fall 2007, Volume 33, number 4, California Quarterly
"Heavens Open," Fall 2007, The Handmaiden
"After Pentecost," Fall 2007, The South Carolina Review
"The Message Comes," "Born," and "Knowing," June 2007, Liaisons II:The R. D. Lawrence Commemorative Anthology
"Ardor" and "Nude," July 2007, Illuminations
"Miscarriage" and "Verliefd," Spring 2007, Zone 3
"The Heart has More Chambers," September 2000, The Mindfulness Bell
"Creation and Expulsion," Summer 1997, South Coast Writing Project Anthology
Went out in December 2007: "Begun last night...," "Overhead," "Nursing my baby down"
Went out in February 2006: "This is not Our Orchard"
Elizabeth Schott has a doctorate in Art History from UC Berkeley and taught art history and writing for 12 years at Berkeley, USC, and UCSB. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the
February 2, 2008 Santa Barbara Poetry Series, Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara
Look for specifics yet to be announced on the CAF site: http://www.sbcaf.org/programs/index.html
September 29, 2007 (Saturday): 10-11 p.m. along with other Santa Barbara Poets at the Santa Barbara Book and Author Festival, Santa Barbara Museum of Art
more SBBAF poetry information:
April 29, 2007 (Sunday): 7 - 9 p.m. Poems of Love, Worldly & Spiritual, Intimate and for the
Planet, Contemporary Arts Forum, music by Rob Wallace & His Friends
Complete SB Poetry Month Schedule:
Looking in the mirror today,
I could still see my eyes well enough.
There is no difference from the outside,
no cloudy stain, not yet.
My first impulse, when I began to see
the failing, the patchiness, how it had crept
even across the foveae, was not fear.
Rather, its absence. I imagined
myself descending into the darkness,
which would no longer be dark,
my body and its surfaces
come alive, my ears awake, all of it
labyrinthine and sensual.
It took some thinking for the worry to enter in.
In truth, until that moment, sight had been
a wind-up toy. I did not really understand;
how unnecessary the memento mori.
Every still life, in its lushness and detail,
insists with each brushstroke that
anything this simple, anything made by eye
or hand, these undemanding shapes,
these few blended hues, these wedges of light
and highlight—these things can be taken away.
For a time after the diagnosis
I saw all things like that—clearly,
though my eyes were growing dim.
I now know that we cannot sustain
such attentiveness from day to day,
not even those of us who are losing
what becomes more beautiful with loss.
I need paintings now
of even the simplest things.
Each pigmented fruit rightly asks
Don’t you miss us already?
Admit for a moment that you feel the pictures
others have formed of you, how they slide across you
as you are regarded by them. Admit that the gap
between their seeing and your surfaces grates
quietly against you, that drawing the curtains
comes as a relief. Imagine what it is like
with no curtains to close, no busyness to distract,
no gaze to shift away. Imagine the regard
of creatures who cannot think of you except
in terms they use as titles for paintings:
“Hills and Trees,” “Beach at Sunset.”
I remember the first intimation of paysage
in a Fleming’s eye. Never to be seen,
but as green and brown splotches,
yellow and blue planes arranged in space.
Beneath, another seeing, one so hungry
it cannot be acknowledged—must be held
in check by the girders of composition.
You rupturable beings, you think surface
is everything. The more you shun
your mothers, your lovers, the more I chafe
under the imagined outlines of your breasts,
buttocks, bellies, limbs.
I just want to be left alone
with my diluvian thoughts.
You are wearing me down
faster than erosion ever could.
This child of mine
is more religion than I’ve ever had,
though I was ushered to church
three hours each Sunday
and twice a week during Advent and Lent.
This I can’t get away from—wouldn’t want to.
The first time I went without him,
I felt more than naked, rushed back
up the mountain, didn’t leave again
for at least a year, my mind coming back
over and over to its beloved object,
my heart repenting all its lapses—
every moment I’ve snuck to read
or write or struggle against my day.
It repents as soon as he’s asleep
in my arms and I press my hands
against his body, willing the overflow
of affection through his tissue, into his heart.
Of what does devotion consist, if not of this,
and of squatting on the floor in front of the toilet,
and of allowing him to ride me, a hands-and-knees horse,
and of correcting without display
his every irregular verb gone awry?
I am lucky: my conscience is clear most days,
cleared over and over by him, and yet it is not enough.
A cougar slopes by our window in broad daylight,
a tawny seraphim, announcing
you must hold your child closer, pay attention
closer, closer by this much.
When the fullness persists
into the eighth year, then food begins
to flow gently, but insistently
your way. Your mother hands you
the fat from her bit of bison.
Your father hides the honey
from the younger children
and feeds it to you at night.
Your older brother appears with nuts
when you thought he was shooting.
All the while, they watch, hoping that you
are like the moon that grows.
If you are, if the rolls form on your neck,
if the dimpling begins before the blood
from between your legs, if you fruit well
even before you bear, then the ritual begins,
and only grows more intense with your girth.
Women who had been your aunties
will become your handmaidens.
As you grow, you will rise higher
above them, even as they come
to own you more. They will paint you
with the chalk of the white river
where you swell, with yellow
they will paint stripes
that meet and become circles.
With red they will paint your lips:
the lips of your mouth, of your vulva,
your nipples, your eyes.
With ash they will paint your folds,
which will become every day
They will tempt you
with variety, with rarity.
If need be, they will restrain you
to send the nourishment
down your throat. You will eat
the tenderest shoots,
acorns ground past the aching of arms,
the soft bellies of insects, peeled.
Fires will be hazarded
to cook for you.
Because you eat it,
food will cease
to ebb and flow.
Everyone who knows anything will come
and show it, come and speak it to you.
You will hear some things many times over,
see the shapes of certain plants
in your sleep, hear stories
from the old men about
before and after.
And then, if you do not
rot, growing old yourself,
you will live through
that which you have never seen,
that which you have only heard.
The children will go first,
and those past bearing them.
The men who survive the women
will mate with you before they die,
and you alone will sail
through the bleakness
with your child inside you,
a laden barge.
The two of you will live
off of your flesh, which is not
your flesh, but the flesh
of your cousins and the
gazelles they have slain,
the flesh of your uncles
and the bulbous roots
they have placed before you.
Your baby will drink the milk
that is not your milk, but milk
you have been given to suckle
from other women.
You will carry the Venus
you have become
in your own girdle. The figure,
made of stone, will remind you
that your flesh will be borne
by anyone bearing flesh.
Your flesh, like the flesh
of the stone, will endure.
appeared in North American Review
Here is how it works:
you stop eating everything
that seems to be sentient,
everything that can run away,
have fear, or feel pain.
You go on for several months this way,
and you begin to notice things.
The animals in your dreams are different;
they no longer hide from you
or fight you for their lives.
Your own animal body
no longer wrestles the protein
into your stomach.
You no longer stand guard
over the tissue of the now-dead.
You feel a clearness and a lightness
that you had not known you were missing,
a quietness, like you can hear the vegetables humming,
and they sound happy.
Only then, you listen a little closer,
thinking you will overhear some quaint, tribal song,
not realizing that the natives are getting restless.
You read about the one-celled devouring each other
before the plants had arisen, evolutionarily speaking.
Which means that plants are,
in a sense, descended from animals.
They could be thought of as animals
who have given up defending themselves
in exchange for not having to take it mortally
every time they lose a limb.
You start to think differently about pruning,
about pulling things up by the roots.
You begin to wonder if carrots
will hear the prayers for absolution
we no longer dare say over a cod.
Perhaps it comes down to learning
to pray in another, vegetable
language. Think of this:
You pick apples one morning,
and each time you grasp one,
you pull gently enough
to make it a question, not a demand.
Feeling how the fruits give way gladly,
you shake the tree and watch your breakfast
drop to the ground all around you,
the big plant laughing.
appeared in the anthology Hunger and Thirst
My child insists that everything
has a belly button and finds them easily
on his dolls, his own round stomach,
and ours. We search for the navels
of animals under their fur
and begin to see that many things
have centers or indentations
the size of a fingertip.
Even rocks have notches, openings.
It is not difficult in the orchard.
Every fruit bears a mark
showing how it has been
umbilical to the tree, and every
tree bears at least one wound,
one pair of nubs where a branch
once clung. I can even see the tree,
where it presses itself to the ground,
umbilical to the earth,
and the leaves stretching out
umbilical to the sun.
I keep working in this way,
seeing the sun umbilical
in the sky, the sky and earth
umbilical to each other—
seeing how everything shows us
where it has come through
and what it has left behind.
It’s hard to believe
that something so green,
so fleshy gives birth to something
so much (for all its hollowness,
its delicacy) like wood.
And yet, it does so actively,
not falling to the ground
to let the soil discover
what it contains,
but clinging so as to gather
the strength to grow
beyond itself, beyond
what is within it,
becoming merely the peel,
then stretching past this,
rent to let in dryness
and rot, shrinking in tatters
around what comes forth,
spending itself into letting go.
What they say
about the exhausted rind is true:
It makes the most indelible dye,
impossible to touch
without being imprinted
by that color, that brown.
She arrived in a pink box
with clear tape sealing each seam,
laid out on a cardboard backing
and tied in place with white ribbon bows.
White tissue paper had been wrapped
carefully over each of her hands
as if in some funereal rite.
My husband, who must introduce
himself to you as your son each time
we visit, worried that she was too heavy,
but I knew that the weight
was what you wanted to bear.
I began to wonder which of your babies
we were bringing back to you.
One of the four who died?
One of the four who grew so far
beyond you? The plaything
they never allowed you in the orphanage?
The afterthought of an ageing mother
you once were, now snug
in a pink snow bunting
embroidered with butterflies
and matching hat? You took her
at once into the crook of your arm,
not needing to tell us
who she was because you
had recognized her immediately.
Though you used the word “doll”
easily enough while we were there,
we heard you greet her gently
after we had left the room.
No matter how we talk anymore,
we cannot calm you. You were waiting
for the one who would keep silent,
the one who would teach you
to be open-eyed, unblinking.
I am thinking now
about the one who chose—
and I do believe it chose
knowing everything beforehand—
to be just this bright spark,
the one who saw the brief
extent of the life ahead
and then still entered into it.
I am thinking about the one
who took on the agony of mitosis
without being able to expect
the triumph of a pulse,
the one who chose to ride down
in the boat that is of your body
and of your mother’s body
and her mother’s and so on
without being able to see—
already having seen—
I believe I am supposed
to use the word angel here,
but hesitate, finding it overused,
and yet now seeing that we
use it so often because
we are always grasping
after the kind of a one
who has, just now,
come and gone within you.
I might also mention
that almond tree—the one
with the strong limb
off of which hangs
the swing in which
we push our babies—
the tips of its branches
have finally sprung into petals
and from where I sit
at certain times of day
the whole thing seems
to be dancing with lights.
for my son
Have you noticed yet how it rushes at us,
this field of vision, this gale, this deluge?
Before you were born I made a habit
of collecting the openings in it,
though they always evaporated
when I tried to paste them down.
I don’t mean those moments
when a stick rising up
from the surface of a lake
appeared as the head of a loon,
or when a butterfly fluttered
down onto the path
in the form of a leaf,
or even the many valuable items
I briefly thought I found
in the tinsel that littered my walks.
I am thinking more of the moments
wherein a patch of particular hue
could not be made into sky, nor cloud,
though it lodged itself in the sky
and among the clouds. I am thinking
of the absence of wall that occasionally
arose across from my bed. I would stare
at these openings in the weave,
at the bright passages in the landscape
that would not cohere.
Whether those fissures were encounters
with the numinous or simply glimpses
of the wizard behind his curtain,
I always wanted them to last.
And then you arrived with a face
I could not give form to, no matter
how much light poured in our windows.
I could not even take a picture
of who I thought you were,
though I tried, over and over.
I look into those photographs now
for the you that you have finally become,
but find only the thinnest threads,
as if, in your coming through,
the veil clung to you for a time
then slipped—though slowly—away.
appeared in MotherVerse
I didn’t need a word like this
before my son was born.
But how else can I say what it was,
that insatiable and perilous opening
that appeared before me,
as I held him, three days
after giving birth?
There it was, the Mouth
of Hell, a place whose existence
I had firmly doubted,
and I had been brought there
by the fullness of love,
which, as it expands, deepens
into the space of what we might lose.
As time goes on, though,
I begin to see,
that the opening is in me,
or of me, that the jagged
purple hunger of the pregnant
never leaves, that the secret
orgasm just keeps rolling on,
that you have no choice but to spend
the rest of your life trying
to keep from panting,
to keep your mouth closed,
your eyes open.
appeared in the anthology The Mom Egg
Getting into the tub this morning,
I thought, I want someone to capture this,
as if someone else could see, as I do,
the history of these three years on my surface,
just as that Dutchman caught the foot and ankle,
indeed, the whole man and his movements,
simply by painting the boots left in a corner.
There was a time before motherhood
I did look like a painting. People would stop me
at the public baths. There was no consistency;
one mentioned Titian, another Gauguin.
I always thought myself more of a Bouguereau,
but there was a wholeness, a sufficiency
that denied infiltration, resisted embellishment.
Which is not to say achieved perfection;
it did not yet refer to anything outside itself,
the way apples and pears are barren
until finally weathering into a transparence
that seeds can pass through.
Here is what my body—like all soft
and pendulous things—says now: I have been
larger than I am, stretched beyond myself,
I could be more dense than I am,
I could be dwindled away, but I am not.
I am here, in this place, for now, as I am.
appears in the July 2007 edition of Illuminations
It is not that the heavens open,
that the doors are flung wide.
Or if they are, it is also
an absolute narrowing,
as if, stepping into a corridor,
you have already arrived
at its distant end.
It is not that the flower unfolds,
unless it both
unfolds and collapses,
blooms and withers
in the same motion.
It is not that the galaxies spiral
outward, except in the way that water
spirals outward as it rushes in.
We only see it do so because we rely
on something as limited as light.
The shaking and the tears
do not start until afterwards.
You will not see what has happened.
You will only know why you are crying,
that you are mourning every moment
you have ever spent, every moment
you will ever spend
appeared in the fall 2007 issue of The Handmaiden
It is not that I have come
in retrospect to doubt
the tongues of flame,
or even the presence
of the Holy Spirit—
though our ability to hear
a voice in our own language
does seem less and less
a miracle as time goes on.
I begin to understand,
however, that such a moment
changes obdurate thought
no more than rose petals
dropped from the ceiling
during mass transform
those on whom they land.
And no less either.
Some rocks erode
faster than we do, and yet
we are eroded from within,
beneath our seeing, until
one day we find ourselves
appeared in the fall 2007 issue of The South Carolina Review
It is not the way the low light
lies like windowpanes
across the grass, nor how
it etches into the bark
of the ancient willows,
nor how it confuses their high,
It is not the faint smell
of manure, a scent that has not
made its way here all summer,
nor even the calm of a river
not yet turned pink,
These things do not say
come lie yourself down
on the whole world.
They do not say to the part
of you that rises, even
as you keep to your chair,
come, lie down on all the flat
surfaces, on all the upward
stretching, arching ones,
lie down forever
and be held.
These things are not—
no things are—the message.
These things are here,
the message comes.
appears in Liasons II: The R.D. Lawrence Commemorative Anthology
as I did that you were dying
made your death no less
unthinkable. I remember how,
after Dad called the summer camp,
they let Kate and me swim,
though the beach was not open,
while we waited for the van
to take us to the airport.
Your body waited for us at home,
the undertakers held at bay,
but only by that much.
I stood far out in the lake, beyond
the boats, beneath the white sheet
of the sky, the quicksilver water
up to my shoulders. I looked back
at the rolling ground sloping,
grass-covered, to the shore
and at the winding dirt paths
worn across that small landscape
and I thought, this is not so hard.
I have been parted from my mother before.
I have been on journeys; she has gone away.
However long it has been, however long
it will be, I can always bear
one more day than that. There is no day
on which I cannot bear one more day.
And so I turned and swam,
sliding down into the liquid,
pulling strongly with my arms.
Somehow in the more
than twenty years since,
I have accepted, without
acknowledgment, that you
are not coming back, but
only by accepting
that nothing comes back.
No, I have gone one better.
I have rewritten the story
to say that you were never
really there. As when the mist
would roll in and that lake
would disappear, the small boats
floating cleanly in a cradling
nothingness, moored and waiting.
appears in Liasons II: The R.D. Lawrence Commemorative Anthology
I am making my way up a hill
covered in stubbled, straw-colored grass,
the light indiscriminate, lovely,
as my son is born, walking and talking
He has been born many times before,
into matter and gravity, into blood, into air.
Born into vision, milk, word and song.
He has been born from the space inside me
to the space outside, from beside me
to across the room, and out the door.
Today, just as we come to our own reflection,
he is born again—as he will be, over and over—
appears in Liasons II: The R.D. Lawrence Commemorative Anthology
I fell in love with how everything
seemed always to be touching her.
Golden down covered her skin
like an invitation.
Every so often she would
tilt her head upward
and the planes would arrange
themselves into the angle
the sun had ravished.
On the tip of my finger
and around my neck,
I can still feel the thinness
of the chain she wore,
as if anything more substantial
might undo her.
She held the profusion
of her body with a restraint
that made her clothing,
tailored though it was,
a violation, her touchability
a longing, stretching out
in all directions.
I remember my disappointment
hearing later that she had taken up
with a man whose hobby it was,
the taming of she-wolves.
I was told she succumbed
out of loneliness, but I know
it was her lambent skin,
the heavy ache
of that bright flower.
appears in the July 2007 edition of Illuminations
Perhaps we did have only that one night
in that attic, under those too steep eaves.
Perhaps you did leave Amsterdam
for the States the next day.
Still, things were never the same.
My landlady suddenly stopped annoying me.
The complexion of the bassoonist next door cleared up.
Every cobble on the street, every brick in every facade,
every bit of mortar found its place.
I developed an affection for those awful
street trams, their limerick clanking.
As I rode one I felt the joy of having weight,
of being thrown from side to side.
Every person I saw that day was indescribably beautiful,
the planes of their faces coming together
so as to reveal the sweetness of being human.
I walked in the Vondelpark,
not so much because we had walked there,
but so as to memorize the fractal patterns in the chestnut leaves.
The sky was blue for the only time that year.
Everyone, without exception, was in a good mood.
None of the bikes collided, not even the tourists.
The tulips might as well have been blooming.
I had to stay away from the Rijksmuseum.
I was afraid I might sneak a peek
at one of the Rembrandts, go mad, and die.
appeared in the Spring 2007 edition of Zone3