Steven Schreiner will be one of three featured readers at the •chance operations• reading at the Tavern of Fine Arts, 313 Belt Avenue, on Monday, March 31.
Other featured readers will be Allison Cundiff and Jim Mrockowski.
Musical guest: David Parker, solo jazz piano.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Admission is FREE.
Open-mic follows the featured readers.
Steven teaches at the University of Missouri-St Louis. He is the author of Too Soon to Leave and Out of Egypt (forthcoming 2014), and the co-author with Allison Cundiff of In Short, A Memory of the Other on a Good Day.
That rain is falling,
that rain we always talk about
that never falls on us.
I see you with your skirt hiked up
with your sandals in your hand
to avoid getting wet in the deep puddles.
Or maybe you are playing
with the rain
running down your face and your arms
and dragging your hair down, weighing
as water will
heavy on your clothes. Your shirt
is a man’s dress shirt you kept
when your lover died
and which you wear like Georgia
O’Keefe waiting for Alfred Stieglitz
to arrive from his city
to her Pueblo. She’s been painting
in a wide hat; he’s been dodging taxis
in the dark Manhattan evening
on a day that revealed
only black and white figures
swimming up to him from the chemical baths
of his darkroom. With the red light on
everything was smoke, as in war.
All day the sun stood by her, her only true
lover, and lit the calyx of her lily.
What large petals, and what a demented,
pollinated stamen among the swelling sepals.
Then the bone-white afterlife
she sought in a skull. What has this
to do with you, or the rain?
It’s just that, when I was away
in my lonely, vexed vigil
to my mother’s late flowering
I was unable, it felt, to touch
anything—not the past, not you, not
myself. I so wanted to be awakened
by beauty or stirred by desire
instead of anguished and cold,
unlike after a death
when one is bereft and maddened
with urge, the great, unfulfillable
hunger after the end. This, this
state I was in, was all prelude
filled with ire and the insistence
to remember to be kind that one must practice
constantly among the frightened, greedy
dying. So it was that I imagined
because I could not touch anything
(nightly I simply sat in a dark room
I returned to after she had been put to bed,
letting the phone emit this or that
message, yes one was yours, no one was not . . .)
that I wanted to approach you
but not touch you, not permit you
to reach for me, not take off what
had gotten wet, not fall upon one
another as lovers do who’ve been apart
when they meet on an all-afternoon rain
but to stand beside you in the sunlight
that strips away everything we are, leaving
either a wet, willing flower’s mouth
or a bleached, wide-eyed death’s head.
-- Steven Schreiner