National Poetry Month – Roberta Schultz

I heard Roberta before I actually met her. For the past several years I’ve attended Table Rock Writers, a workshop in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. Also there during the week is a group of musicians, So-La-Ti-Do. Roberta is one of these amazing musicians. Each day they are given a prompt and they write both the lyrics and the music for a song based on the prompt. By Thursday evening we are treated to a concert of this new, original music. Roberta also plays guitar, sings and writes music for the Kentucky women’s trio, Raison D’Etre, and is a member of a drumming circle. It’s no wonder her poems are lyrical.

And I would add storyteller to words that describe Roberta, a reflection of her rural Kentucky roots. Roberta’s poems have the humor or drama, attention to detail, and pacing of a good Southern story. Whether she’s singing, reciting a poem, or just talking with you, her eyes and smile express the joy she seems to always carry in her heart.

From Outposts on the Border of Longing, published by Finishing Line Press, posted with the poet’s permission.

Outpost

The ranch house was painted pink

when he bought it with the VA loan.

 

Little outpost in a wilderness

of thick green.

 

Tangles of tawny wheat grass

buried our chiggered knees.

 

Green snakes hung from the hickory limb

flicking tongues too near our ears.

 

Black snakes raced into the wild roses

escaping the angry mower.

 

Hognose snakes pretended to die

in the middle of the two rut road.

 

With each new species, Violet screamed.

With each new scream, Rosanne echoed.

 

I found the machete Daddy brought from the South Pacific

and hacked my way to a vacant shed.

 

Maybe this was like Africa in the National G’s.

Maybe we were missionaries.

 

Maps

The world came to my mailbox

once a month in a plain brown wrapper.

Golden yellow border surrounding –

as often as not – azure sea or sky.

Snowcapped mountains or Serengeti

stealing focus.

 

A treat for most of the senses.

The eyes of course.

But to touch that lacquered surface

or to smell the Arctic slickness of

the pages demanded a reverence

from our smudge-making

scissor-bearing hands.

We knew without being told

that children caught defacing

these slim volumes

would surely burn in hell.

 

We were cursed

with the only navy blue bedroom

I had ever seen.

My friends had pastels, or

at the very least, wallpaper.

“You are lucky to have clothes

on your back,” said my never

sympathetic mother who also

could not see why I might need

photos of my dolls in my wallet.

 

Once I discovered the map issues,

everything changed.

Canada went up first,

sprawling its great plains between the window

and the top of my Hollywood bed.

 

Next, Norway’s spoon dipped

over the wall to the right.

The South American continent silenced

the whines from the bunk bed.

 

My sisters were soon plotting where

they wanted to place the next colorful square

when the Solar System issue came out.

 

Since I had convinced them that

they were not from around here

anyway, they gladly embraced

their beautifully illustrated homes,

 

How easy it would be now

to buy glow in the dark

stars at the dollar store

and make that little

dark room the Universe.

 

But all we had were maps.

So, for a few sweet years,

the world came to us

in pieces like

a patchwork quilt.

 

Senior lap

Every year the seniors at

Dixie Heights High School

line up their cars

in the front parking lot

after the last graduation practice

for the Senior Lap.

 

Edgewood Police stop

traffic on US 127

for this rite of passage while

screaming 17 and 18 year olds

rev engines, honk horns and

circle their pageant past

the high school entrance

onto Dixie Highway and back.

 

Underclassmen sprout out windows

like philodendra.

Their arms escape in

tendrils of tribute.

 

Teachers, too, line up

on the steps to witness

this once-a-year spectacle,

shouting names, hooting,

celebrating the cycle.

 

One year Justin Beale

called to me from the

backseat of a red four-door,

“Schultz, get in!”

I could leave, I thought.

I could finally go.

It was the first time

that thought became word.

My principal saw my eyes and said,

“Oh, no you don’t.”

 

The back door opened and

I fell into the howling pack

of seniors laughing so hard

they were hugging their knees.

 

With a roar we peeled onto

Dixie Highway for one

revolution of the parade,

then back to my fellow teachers.

 

A new creature crawled out

of that back seat on

uncertain, but

twitching legs.

 

Roberta’s answers to my questions ~

I wrote my first poem in the 7th grade when Miss Gosney told us to close our grammar books and notice the beauty of the snow falling outside. I had been writing songs for years—making up tunes to imports and exports so that I could memorize them easily. Making up tunes to poems I found in books—like “The Only Son” in the Mowgli stories of Kipling.  But I had never thought of words as the primary mode of expression.  Miss Gosney asked to “publish” my snow poem in her notebook which only made me want to write more poetry.

I’d love to have coffee with Natalie Diaz.

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