Dennis Schmitz

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(ISBN 978-0932440-47-1)

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There is a radiant wisdom that has always infused the poetry of Dennis Schmitz, a remarkable light that is able to reflect precisely off even the most corrupted surfaces of our daily world. Since reading his very first collection, the astonishing We Weep for Our Strangeness, I have always thought of Schmitz's poems as the secular prayers of the sanest voice in an often insane world. Reverential of both the natural and human worlds, Dennis Schmitz is nevertheless unafraid to regard both with a sober eye and to record with a profound intimacy the simple wreckage—and the wild triumphs—he has found.
David St. John

"Music," says Dennis Schmitz, "is a complex belief system / with a simple god— / it is all innuendo like a dog’s bark." The same can be said of Schmitz's poems. They are wonderfully animated by the simple complexities that are revealed when the closely-observed world is ghosted by memory. Remembering the act of his father removing an errant fish hook from his scalp gives entrance to the subtle and complicated parent/child relationships that entangle us all. The situations of these poems are straightforward but the emotional nuances are not, and Schmitz captures that perfectly.
— Michael Chitwood

If natural objects and phenomena have souls, Dennis Schmitz is their diviner, uncovering "the gods inside / things" with an ecstatic and lamenting barbaric yawp all his own. Part demotic, part prophetic, these poems ensoul the inanimate and give animal force to the spiritual as they speak of and for the souls of "the blurt & syncopated chirr of chain / saws," the "nightshift at Westmark Meats," Predator drones, "the important potatoes // sending out white feelers in the kitchen bin." "You can’t learn levitation," Schmitz declares, but he has learned it: these poems hover gorgeously between the chthonic and the empyrean, with a rush of beating wings.
Bruce Beasley

Dennis Schmitz is also the author of About Night: Selected and New Poems.



Sometimes intimacy only means no elsewhere:
that June I dutifully read The Golden Bowl,

swaying to & from the job on the crowded
Lake Street el, at first bored then repelled

by Adam Verver’s incestuous clinging.
Every night I’d tear fifteen pages more,

staple them into a throwaway daily reading
of love’s duplicities. Days, I wrapped toys

at Goldblatt’s, my touch sticky
where I’d glued shut paper cuts or thumbed

snakes of tape around gift toys
while Chicago’s impatient moms or dads elbowed

each other into frenzy. On the el-ride
home, Verver bought his daughter an Italian

prince or the shopman wrapped
our novelist’s flawed golden bowl into

a symbol, sure to break later.
All around me cramped passengers shook

in & out of pairs; basted with one another’s
sweats, they tried not to look at faces,

but I read faces while I used James
to fend off a heavy woman in stiletto

heels as she wobbled in & out of libidinal
balance. Someone behind me wanted to tear

off my shirt. A man cursed in two languages.
Intimacy makes its heat by friction—

some of us just smolder, some burn.


The Woods

The wolf from an adjacent story
would pursue him if the dwarf didn’t,

but at last the feverish child
is asleep, & as you inadvertently open

your mouth against the animal
& flower pattern on the child’s bed-sheet

against which you too lie, but inaccurate
& too big, you too begin to breathe your way

into sleep. Fever is switchbacks
& sweaty going, uphill—even a cough

loosens the leaves on the trees
until you must redo the dream for which

awake-life is only a displacement.
Breathe deeper into the sheet—in your sweat

& spit, the laundered-out animals come
back wet but vivid as you restlessly turn

to print your eye into the foliage.
This way is the trail—that way,

blackened with sleep, the woods.


Picking Blackberries

Your own children bite your hands
to get at any fruit you pick, Farney’s mother,

our guide, warned about families, her voice
out of cadence with her hands, more knowing

than ours, quicker children’s hands.
Mother, we thought, nodded as she picked.

Later, Mother sent us into deeper
thickets from which the three of us never

looked back to the crawl-holes.
Our shredded clothes were spotted with

juice or bleeding, our voices unhappily
plasmic with berry-pulp as we screamed

to each other the insults jays utter,
mistaking other species for their own.

How clever jays seem, how like humans.
Washed down with a sunlight tangled

in bugs, the jays feed, heads tilted, alert.


Copyright c 2014 by Dennis Schmitz. May not be reproduced without permission.

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