I-70 Review

Writing and Art from the Middle and Beyond

Elizabeth Schultz

     Having retired from the University of Kansas in 2001, Elizabeth Schultz now balances scholarship on Herman Melville and on the environment with writing essays and poems about the people and places she loves. She has published two critical works on Melville, two collections of poetry, one book of short stories, and published her scholarship and poetry widely. She has also co-organized an international conference on ecocriticism in Beijing and regularly participates in international ecocriticism conferences.


After living with animals

in a volcano's crater, down and dirty,

I returned to a city, raw with traffic

and the blare of neon. Before

a mirror's glare, the stranger there,

newly bathed and dressed, gave

a tentative wave of recognition.  

Years later, after months of sailing,

salt-encrusted and rusty, I re-entered

the harbor and a hotel. Before

another mirror, stripped down,

I disowned these breasts, bleached white,

and this long, smooth scar, lavender

as a shell's lip, although the stranger

had become my familiar.


The snow kept falling

in the rooms of her house.

Glaciers expanded.

She thrashed and flailed

against whiteness and

she stopped in her tracks.

She closed the door,

turned up the heat.

She gave in to backache,

let her hip dislocate,

let herself capsize.  

The mainsheet snapped,

and sails enveloped her,

as the boat went over.

Cocooned in flannel,

she barely breathed.

Her feet kicked without

touching bottom, and

indulging in slippage,

she forgot lists and tasks,

and lost all taste.  

Warmth returned, room

by room, and she righted

herself. Yearning for oranges,

she folded open the garage

and started the car.


Listening to a famous poet read

death-defying non-sequiturs,

I am watching a video in which

a woman in black paints the stones

in her landscape white, slathering

them with a thick brush, and then

she is painting a man's back.

I watch her re-create her scene

repeatedly, the video replaying,

as the poet continues reading,

and I am remembering how

the garage door slammed down

around me, and they were gone,

leaving me to fume and breath

rancid gasoline and betrayal.

Light seeped through one window,

its pane shadowed with must,

and I paced, past shelves of rusty

garden tools, bags of fertilizer,

around a coal bin, seeking out.

I smashed the glass and emerged

a cutup, blood following me home,

an old reel, it runs off and on

during poetry readings and avant-

garde videos. I cannot chase it down.


She disconnects the Security,

removes bolts from the doors,

cracks the windows, leaving

plenty of room for night to enter.  

Wide-eyed, she watches a train

tunnel through the room and vanish

into the closet, whistle ricocheting

against the walls. Later lightning

flashing through the blinds, slamming

shadows across the ceiling shakes

her awake. Night rattles everything  

until it sinks into itself, goes still,

deepening, darkening, its shadows

lapping against her. Unseen noises

pause before slipping over the sill.

They whisper and materialize

as embossing on the quilt, massage

their whiskers, before departing

for further marauding. She puts

her ear to dreams, and trusting night,

she lets dark strangers enter and

stretch out alongside her to rest

before moving solemnly on.


A bedroom of her own

she closed the door

climbing roses on the wall paper

she clicked herself into the closet

the Story Book dolls on a shelf

she stomped the most precious doll

snipped off her perfect ringlets

a spindle bed painted pink

she put band aids on her wounds

and dreamed of butterflies

throbbing in a milk bottle

ceramic fawns and rabbits

braced a music box in a what-not

she said the day back to herself

watching the antique watch

with its intricate golden hands

twisting on a black ribbon

realizing the recitation took

a total day while out the window

a blooming was already forgotten

and no mirror anywhere showed

her to herself.