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Tuesday, July 19, 2011


by Lauren Schmidt

Fifty-six-year-old Herbert Bishop, who did not have a permanent address, was known on the streets as ‘Pac-Man.’ An autopsy determined yesterday that Bishop died as a result of blunt force trauma---The Oregonion, May 13th, 2009

When you suffer the first punch,
the prayer you hope others say for you

dips its ladle into your marrow,
pulls it up, your adrenaline stirred.

Before your death’s official, though, you look
for a direction, hang your memories

on the rungs of your life’s upward. But there
are two of them— you are all alone— and defeat

descends in your bones like tree rings.
Blow after blow, you lower to your knees,

remember your Genesis, the man before the fall,
you name your every wrong. As you imagine

the dimensions of paradise, you weep for the milk
of your mother’s breast.

After the boys have left you, you bow your head,
search your blood for a way to put it back,

a connoisseur of wounds. Your features wane at dawn
beneath the breath of a kitten sniffing you,

a comfort like the sheet the police are ready
to pull over you. The last sounds you ever hear

are a bell, the flash of a camera,
and a stranger mispronounce your name.

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.