John Schertzer

from Lines of Flight


Alembic Beside the Candle

The pillar that Samson blew open with

two hairless fists—but first an adage from his

father’s marketing firm, incorporated

in 1903, under the stiff wind of the Euphrates.

Before the balancing, the many killers employed

by his favorite studios, designing

chairs with a mild electric shock.  The goblets

reached into the initial mayhem by sweating

mildly, engendering rings in harmony

with vibrations going through the palace

floor, on the surface of the potions the royal 

family was drinking.  But on the inside

of the outsideless vessel, the orchestra had

begun, sending satellite communications

in the form of asterisks and dotted lines

to all the beginning tributaries, the unlocked

hand and then its brother, slowly reaching.


The Felt of Right of Wrong


These button holes are dug too deep,


ex-genera as the city living in circles.

Around the pole they sweep toward


a bountiful crypt-like education

squeaking behind the headboard.


The many shirts we’re taught to wear—

the quick pink ones, grey ones, orange


light dyed into fabric from evening.

The beach, in search of a miraculous


landscape divided by stars,

of doors in an arc along the entry.

Letter of your name, and what it


might mean to attempt to save you.

Save you from what?  I’m the one


needs saving says the sister,

long lost beneath this head


stone where the army put it thinking

it’s a long way to other general


settings, as in the piece of tape

marking the position on the dial.


I wish there was something more

intimate for us to wear.  Actually


there is and I am imagining you

bringing it here in the right size. 


Back in the World with You Too


If this motion sickness is the cure for therapy

and the moon won’t do its tricks, how do we move mountains 

when it was this twig that came out of the box,

writing its name in reverse or at least moving forward

with that thought in mind, with that reaching toward

the next moment with another set of grips.

One finds in one’s suppleness a greater nervous agitation

much more successful and pleasurable,

neutralizing the ground with alkalis and arguments

that have over the centuries made us such an un-fun mob

to be around, to be spinning among our spinning and roundness

like that of the hidden circle in everything we do.

Goddess, the circle, circle majesty, as I swing my arm in an arc,

trying to kill you or touch you or invite you

into my intentions to stay. Remember who I am

and who you might be and at what point on the curve

as we speed around our bodies. Numbness and heat.

Remember the first singing I had ever done to you

and the way it revolved a heart, one we made in the middle.

We hadn’t found the time and place to use tools

made of tumbling and twisting, of friction between skins,

a torrent of drumbeats pouring out of every fact.

This is how we occurred to us, and our work was complete.

Not that kind of work, but of many hammerings

breaking away the ground over which we hung, trembling

over the ground that was neither a circle nor a heart,

but a mottled flatness, an unevenness, a place to climb

or slide down into the belly or crater where it was still warm.


Flowers as Something Standing on the Counter

Waves of blue shot through my hands

and because of that I knew I had approached

a state unlike that which I was seeking,

but perhaps more useful. After all

it was a blue wave, a blue-hand waving

state I was unfamiliar with.  On another day

I may have made nothing of it at all—

in fact there were days I made nothing

of it at all, and days I made still less

than that about anything that may have

happened to me—say a sudden growth spurt

or an equally fleeting decrease in size.

Because in the end it was the averaging

of these things that got me there, that place

to which I belonged, though after that it

disowned me and the flavors on my tongue

and the way I saw and thought of things.

I was in a disowned state, a flowering

and pungent yearning for that which I’d

never know, could never, not even imagine.

Standing on a lever between the window

and the open room, I ruminated long and hard,

trying to recur.  Trying to be back around.


Short Bursts of Cherry

There are roses and blood stains on these calipers.

For days I’ve wandered through this desert blind

and your hair was a fragrance I hadn’t known yet, 

blood on my hands from cutting their meat

and a soft discipline of walking with a limp.

When the sun dropping toward the horizon fell

we were beet red from heavy breathing.

The passage up the rocks was treacherous.

Thank goodness for our little friend, the doctor

who killed three guards and sucked another

of those crimson flowers, granting her vision.

Buildings of tremendous scale, some of cobble,

others of unknown origin.  Grass among the ruins

and some small fruit trees and those without fruit 

on the periphery—berries, small oranges and cacti crown

a flame at night but nothing more, no ghostly guide.

Flame and a sack of dried victuals still bloody from flight.  

To sit and listen before faith opens her mouth,

her red O, and its first utterance, her scarlet 

wordless prayer and its first reference.

The way it stabbed everyone in her bed,

everyone in her, everyone who could be counted.



John Schertzer lives in Brooklyn NY with his wife and poet Kathleen E Krause, their two evil genius sons Liam and Declan, and dog Rex (supervillain name Difficult Dog) where they all are plotting the end of the world as we have known it so far, in favor of one that is unknowable.