Memory Cards: Clark Coolidge Series, by Susan M. Schultz

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EOAGH Chapbooks


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I am not to speak for one year.  I wonder if I should call.  She has taken my vow of silence, cannot hold the phone or say more than hello.  To enter another’s sainthood, attend to complexity’s unraveling into perfection.  My crystal text is not transparent; she is my parent.  Apparent vehicle, I & she.  In the dugout the losing team falls apart: my son weeps, another woman’s son hangs head to chest.  I sign her checks; I must be part she.  I have lost her voice as she has lost my name.  My son, in red & white, stands at the plate in the sun and blinks, bat quivering over his right shoulder.  At this moment I cannot say I love him.  Egrets sail over us in drafts.  A baby cries.  Coach yells, what are you DOING, holding that ball?  One to another writes, I’m missing you, but the second is gone, except to Facebook.



–18 April 2011



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 Do you want to read all of the signs?  And sometimes we are the storm.  In the recruiting photograph ships leave the central palm, a cluster of fighters in its fronds.  You used your power to exact personal revenge against me.  Where all signs are read twice, once for content, twice for discontent.  To avoid misprision, use only short words, like “broom” and “cyst” and “dog.”  He had a parole officer, reported violent fantasies about a colleague, pledged his ever-lasting love.  Re-pronounce respite.  Re-spite.  Re-spiteful.  Imagine having to live inside of me.  Man killed by police tested positive for crystal meth.  Oh pellet spray of sorrow, of love me, of do me in.  Turn at Mind’s End, heading north.  There  will be no state lines to cross.



–19 April 2011



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I am become so sensitive to sounds.  Why you so angry with each other? Coach yells.  We’ve been in each other’s lives for a long time, one mother says to the other.  It’s a family feud; older brother of X pushed Y’s older brother down the stairs.  Y’s mother has her story.  Is her boyfriend getting mad?  He’s close to the dug-out now, blue-tooth in his right ear.  Could be play-by-play.  And Cameron, poor boy, always mad about something.  (Dad’s eyes blood-shot, wide.)  The high school team was a disaster; so glad the season’s over.  Only team not in the play-offs.  They’d start to lose and THEN they’d put the sophomores in.  The juniors should’ve had to deal.  He’s a difficult boy; I don’t mind if he gets yelled at.  So long as it’s your husband doing it.  Maybe shame will work.  Was that your relative who left us a note about our empty house?  Small world, eh?  Can’t rent until October.  Yeah, everybody does it, but when you’re a cop. . .  You come to practice and you work!  I want you to shut your mouth!  And you.  We’re going to play like a TEAM!  Girlfriend of Cameron’s dad gets the call her son’s just back from Afghanistan, hasn’t seen him in two years.  Still in Washington State, but at least he’s ok, not like the Marine on the crashed copter.  She couldn’t adopt–her past, you know.



–21 April 2011



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I spell it.  I spell it trees in the window board.  This week’s list was compound words: blackboard, jigsaw, sometimes, windshield.  We debated if there could be a windshield at the back.  There’s a back windshield wiper, she explained.  I was more worried about the “ie” issue, there being no “c” to reverse the field.  Haole has an “a” and an “o” in it, in that order.  AssHaole is one pun lidat.  Someone laughs at the Idealist, tripping in a hole.  Test the meat on her; if there be maggots, they’ll supply her protein.  Lear’s on the sidelines; there’s a clouded window between him and Cordelia’s corner kick.  Lear’s a haole, except in Kurosawa.  Never much for company, he brings nothing to the potluck.  Not even the little boy in blue slippers distracts him.



–22 April 2011




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And going in all the while I was livid with fear like the girl who wanted to sleep over until we said she could sleep over who began to cry and called home to be taken away from our darkness or our not-homeness or our not-her-motherness.  On a bike ride I investigated the depths of my panic, repeat sign for which there is no correction, not white out not delete not even improv.  The tree has taken on poison, Bryant says, and you are not a tree doctor.  Either the tree will flush the poison or it won’t.  There’s something in it for the tree, if not leaves or flowers.  Beauty’s for the birds.  Fools like me compose.  Compose yourself.  There are lines you must not cross.  Spry cordage is where it’s at.  Sling it between trees, lie down, face to the blue sky’s wandering cloud; do not wonder why you went to Misrata, or even home.



–23 April 2011



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Memory blocks me with every problem in the book.  Not that every problem is a memory, but every problem comes with memory blocks.  Inverse aphasia, exfoliation.  Studies suggest depression makes memory more acute.  Depressive realists: they’d never stick chins out, get their blocks knocked off.  Not like I do, though I don’t want to be here, off-stage while Edgar eulogizes the King of Block.  Memory’s paranoid: compassion does not suit its sword.  Is it armor or an ill-named nakedness that covers my view of the field with its stain?  Legos replaced our blocks, a more sturdy structure, bricks with nipples to rest inside another’s holes.  Konahuanui (“large testicles”) erupt near the Pali, while Koko Head’s connotations are more properly vaginal.  Sir Ian dropped his knickers in performance (“impressive genitalia,” notes Germaine Greer), but the video spares our eyes.  It’s we who see feelingly, if feeling be memory codified.  Re-member it!



–24 April 2011



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Is the heart of poetry a stillness?  At the telephone’s other end, I’m here and then she’s not.  Just shut up and listen! Jimmy Stewart yells on her television.


–Have you eaten, Mom?

–How’s the weather?

–Are you there, Mom?

–I love you, Mom.  I love you, Mom.  I’ll call back soon.



–26 April 2011



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Or perhaps stillness is perfect time—original joy blooms beneath a glass bulb that protects as it cuts off air.  Time is a sentence punctuated: not comma or semi-colon, but full stop.  His old bus-driver waves to him as he walks by.  An organ stop sounds.  My cat’s meow is all meaning, no context.  (I know better than that: he means kitchen.)  Prisoners subjected to sound lose their sense of direction; sleep is a map, a quest, a kayak.  Stop gap, stop loss: these are actions, not arrest.  Put a stop to it means embarking on an ending.  An ending like a pier cannot contain any but its own assertions.  Her whisper is still a voice.



–27 April 2011



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Maybe everything is getting too flux for us.  The timelessness of her dementia is no stay against confusion, even if her silence suggests a form.  The telephone fails as vehicle because there’s no cargo, only air.  It’s not air to breathe, but to hear through; I listen for sounds around my mother, not for hers.  She’s there so long as Jimmy Stewart speaks, or John Wayne, or there’s “A day to show the women in our lives / Our appreciation for everything they do.”  Her breath is doing, her sitting.  Mine is to attend her voice’s passing.  I thought bodies rose in the sky, wondered why I couldn’t see them go.  Hers was  the bad sense of direction.



–28 April 2011



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To grasp the relation of words to matter, if that relation isn’t identity, but the distance between two languages.  He argues with characters in the one (as Father leans over a shoulder).  The other an import—our last surplus, lexicon—whose clarity is photographic.  English, like the shopkeeper, is ordinary.  We brought him the requested whiskey, then found it in Kathmandhu.  Another airplane just flew by, she said, in imitation.  It’s a question of translation, the scholar says, but for her it was one of substitution.  English was her mother once removed, as am I.  But what is a scheme? I ask on the way to school.  She can spell the sch words—she owns one now—but the schooner’s leaving the dock and we’re not on deck.   We’re at the pee pee spot, making waves.



For Ranjan Adiga

–29 April 2011



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These prose poems begin with lines chosen randomly from Clark Coolidge’s The Crystal Text (Sun & Moon, 1995; first published 1987).  Each poem fits on a large index or time card.  Other memory cards in this series can (or will be) found in Marsh Hawk Review (, New American Writing, Cimarron Review, Eleven Eleven, Mascara (Australia), Transpacific Poetics, and from Ink Press in Metz, France and the Dusie Kollectiv.




Susan M. Schultz
lives and teaches in Hawai`i.  She is author of four books of poetry and poetic prose, including Aleatory Allegories (Salt, 2000), Memory Cards & Adoption Papers Potes & Poets, 2001), And Then Something Happened (Salt, 2004), and Dementia Blog (Singing Horse Press, 2008), as well as A Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (University of Alabama Press, 2005) and other criticism.  She founded Tinfish Press in 1995, and blogs at  She is a lifelong fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, and lives with her family in Kāne`ohe, on the island of O`ahu.