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Wednesday, June 15, 2011


by Lauren Schmidt

“'We don’t have any evidence that a weapon was used,' said Detective Jeff Donaca. 
'The indication is that [Herbert Bishop] was beaten to death.'”, June 17, 2009

The next morning, we went out for breakfast.
Any other Sunday, eggs, sausage and buttered bread
to sop the beer from last night before it sinks in,
what we did. We washed our hands in the river.
Red blood streamed Willamette green, but you can’t see
color in the dark, can’t see your reflection either.
The waitress snapped her gum, stared at my knuckles,
cut and dried in blood. Last night, blood throbbed in my head,
greased the machine of me, as my windmill fists smashed
head and chest,

then head
and head
and head.

She stared, but took our order instead: eggs, sausage and buttered bread.
The bridge of a nose crushes like a Styrofoam cup,
but the ribs don’t give, and the skull is soft like a stone
is soft till finally, the bleeding. All it takes for egg yolk to break
is a toasted crust of bread. Yellow fans out like blood
in the brain from blow after blow after blow. Yolk-thick,
his tongue twitched with slugs of blood. Black like the river
was black, like my coffee is black, like the night was black
before dawn was red and we were a Sunday-kind-
of- hungry, craving some eggs. We stuffed our stomachs
like the pipe we took off him. We went back to get that pipe,
packed it, pulled and held our purple breaths, let them go
like ghosts from our throats, the way life goes out
but we didn’t stay to watch. Couldn’t watch that part,
something wrong about that, the way jerking off feels
wrong the first time you do it till it doesn’t anymore.

Editor’s Note: This poem is part of a full-length collection of poetry based on the poet’s experience volunteering at a homeless kitchen, The Dining Room, in Eugene, Oregon, where several hate crimes occur each year against homeless men. The collection, Psalms of The Dining Room, is due out next year. The collection draws attention to an otherwise silenced problem: hate crimes against homeless victims.

Lauren Schmidt’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Progressive, Alaska Quarterly Review, New York Quarterly, Rattle, Nimrod, Fifth Wednesday Journal,  Ekphrasis Journal, Wicked Alice and other journals. Her poems have been selected as finalists for the 2008 and 2009 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize, the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Dancing Girl Press Chapbook Contest. Her awards include the So to Speak Poetry Prize and the Neil Postman Prize for Metaphor. In 2011, she was nominated for the Best New Poets Anthology. Her chapbook, The Voodoo Doll Parade (Main Street Rag), was selected as part of the 2011 Author’s Choice Chapbooks Series. Her second chapbook, Because Big Boobies Are Necessary (Amsterdam Press), and her first full-length collection, Psalms of The Dining Room (Wipf & Stock) are both forthcoming. Lauren Schmidt teaches writing at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, New Jersey.