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Friday, August 05, 2022


by Jen Schneider

in honor of James Longenbach (1959-2022)

“Hold the line, please,” the hospital operator says
and all i can think
/ while waiting, wondering, worrying
—mostly wanting
is this must be how poems get made

Longenbach teaches poetry as the sound 
of language (organized in lines)
while physicists teach sound as a type of pressure 
/ a wave & not physical matter 
& that non-physical matter can’t be held  

—but consumed / like a sunburn, a shooting star,
a child’s cry, a first kiss 
/ a gust of wind (of a sea) 

            i inhale / then try
            to hold the line
cup my palm / & imagine
            coiled elastic compressions
            pressure creases 
            shadow / then settle
i pull / the line pushes
            all springs (& senses) engaged

Longenbach writes on a poem’s life & death
/ line, meter, & rhyme all tools of construction 
/ danglers & run-ons distanced / some say decried
            i cry—unexpectedly / 
            poetry is like that / “the sound 
with punctuated breath & cupped palms, 
i consume syllabic beats 
/ despite earthling’s desires / all spiral cords 
(& choruses) prone to tangle. all moons cyclical
The operator returns & says, “I’m sorry.
We can’t locate the clerk,” at the same time
an overhead speaker buzzes / sound waves press
—& hang up, wishing to continue to hold the line

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. Recent works include A Collection of RecollectionsInvisible InkOn Habits & Habitats, and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups.