Where I Once Lived, by John Schneider

Where I Once Lived


It’s late, not a soul on the street
just the flicker of RCA’s playing
in living rooms where people
live and die.  Their slow-motion shadows
escape between the cracks of double-hung windows
and soon-to-be drawn-drapes
hopeful in their Hydrangea flower patterns.

The shadows find me the way TV reruns play and replay
after midnight in my head like not-yet-dreamt dreams.
Of course, the roof gables here
are furrowed like the brows of matrons draped in shawls
they crocheted for Sunday mass.
A mutt straddles the sidewalk looking through
me, his black eyes curious about my intentions,

his muzzle aimed straight ahead, level as a 30:06
on white-tail opening day.  Folks here bear arms
to keep meat in their freezers, always uncertain
about the next lay-off.
It’s a cheese-factory, paper-mill town.
People live by the numbers on an ever-ticking
time clock, breathing air from smoke stacks

that line the horizon like hands raised in prayer
for another day on the job.  The sky
is quilted with the night-blooming fragrance
of sulphur, released while people sleep
its residue diluted but never
forgotten by those who have stayed.
Pride is a vacant chaise lounge

reclining on a grassless lawn and barren
jungle-gymns, in this town of eye-to-eye
handshakes, where doors are kept unlocked
and opinions certain as an early
September freeze are always left unspoken.
Friday night means fish fries in taverns—
chased by beer and boiler makers.  One-hinged screen

doors sway idly on houses that have lost their sheen
and the paint that remains bubbles like spider veins.
Where one-legged trellises pine for thawed ground
and the return of self-propagating rose vines
that twirl and wind before flowering.  Tonight lake fog
curls back slowly through me
while dampness settles on the windows.


John Schneider was born and raised in Wisconsin and has lived and worked for most of his adult life in Berkeley, California. Recent poems have appeared in:  Glassworks Magazine; fort da; Wilderness House Literary Review; Anak Sastra; Edge Literary Journal; West Trade Review; The Literary Nest; The Mayo Review; 2 Bridges Review; The Bookends Review; California Quarterly; Sliver of Stone Magazine; Worcester Review; Potomac Review; Slipstream Poetry Magazine; and Tampa Review.

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