327 Days After Sentencing
The snow, falling all day, makes me
think about you in your cell,
in your head, a clam in a shell,
high or low tide, murky water
that hides sharp rocks
Where do I even begin shoveling?
I dream of us clamming in
the Shinnecock Bay beside the
Ponquogue Bridge using
bare feet to find shells like we did
when we were kids, like we did
with our kids. Now snow falls
heavy like the relentless fear
that I won’t be able to protect
my own children from monsters
disguised as people
they were taught to trust.
for telling a new acquaintance
that I am an only child,
for wanting to forget you’re alive
while simultaneously wanting
to pretend this shovel is a clam rake
that the snow is the bay. Forgive me
for making icicles hanging outside
my window into steel bars,
for not being a better person
for letting all the snow fall
before starting to clear it,
for snapping the handle of my shovel
like how a lifetime ago
I watched you shuck a clam
and snap that blade right off.
Three Days Before Sentencing
I swam twenty-three laps today.
We went to the library and my daughter
checked out a pile of graphic novels.
She prefers pictures over words.
I will make her a lettuce and mayonnaise
sandwich for lunch. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you. I miss
you. You will be sentenced in three days
for a crime no one believes you committed
in your right mind. I may or may not
get around to laundry. The baby has been
fussy lately. Mark is still working on the plumbing
in the house we used to live in, he’s getting it ready
for someone else to move in. I thought
moving would make our lives easier. Between us,
we sleep eight hours a night. Work. Work. Work.
Then tomorrow, the next day, the day after.
You know the length of your incarceration;
sentencing is part of the procedure we all wish
could be skipped. All of this and nothing.
Last time I visited, you asked me if
I thought her family hated you.
You killed their daughter, their sister, I replied.
I haven’t gone back to see you since.
I hate the way the guards ask,
Are you carrying any weapons?
before they buzz you in. The days go on
the way they did before, except there is this film
over everything like when you heat a mug of milk
in the microwave. Sometimes someone asks how I am,
and all I tell them is that I started swimming again.
Rebecca Schumejdais the author of several full-length collections including Falling Forward (sunnyoutside press), Cadillac Men (NYQ Books), Waiting at the Dead End Diner (Bottom Dog Press) and most recently Our One-Way Street (NYQ Books). Her latest book Something Like Forgiveness, which features collages by Hosho McCreesh, is available from Stubborn Mule Press. She is the co-editor at Trailer Park Quarterly. She received her MA in Poetics from San Francisco State University and her BA from SUNY New Paltz. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her family.