HomeSouthern VoiceThree Poems by Robert Schuster

Three Poems by Robert Schuster

How to Write Well

Keep a notebook,
don’t forget to write
down everything you see and hear,
touch, smell, experience
every single thought,
all the miniscule molecules coalesced in a slurry
beneath a film of electrical impulses,
ideas each oily strands draped, stretching
across infinitesimal spaces
between myelin sheaths

Take deep breaths,
count them slowly,
measure the expansion of your ribs
imagine your lungs reaching up to them
they grasp desperately
feel them almost make it, almost burst
through the surface

Pick a favorite place, anywhere
you will always be comfortable
concentrating, and then never change it
Maintain this tiny pool and cultivate the life
submerged within, translucent jellies
and closely armored crustaceans, flitting hungrily
to the tidbits dropped in from the sky,
blown in from the shore
Let them eat and know
that the smallest disturbance,
an algae-covered pebble, an invading, ravenous gull,
a child with a plastic shovel digging as deep as he can
to find the point where the sand and the surf are the same
means the end of the world

Change it up,
never let yourself get comfortable
A new home, a new spouse,
scribble every line in a new, little nook
A new dive from the board
into consecutively deeper ends
A drop straight downward, thighs tight together,
arms held fast to your sides
resist the urge to reach up and pinch your nose
or clandestinely squint with one eye,
(as though anyone could see)
to check just how far you have left to go,
or approximate the milliseconds
(you can’t, and don’t really want to, know)
A new record for time spent immersed,
just one, two, three more seconds

Cultivate a habit,
One page a day, maybe even two
words, lines, sentences, paragraphs
(it doesn’t really matter what thing so long as it’s something)
One pack a day, maybe even two
A beer or a brandy
Faulkner chose bourbon, Hemingway rum
An oceangoing boat, going nowhere with a machine gun,
hunting submarines, fishing rivers,
alone, but consistent
Later, drops directly into the eyes,
sliding down from the imperfect point of the lens
to the nadir, the corners and cracks
absorbed through membranes, and internal and external spaces,
the entirety of existence
melts into a rainbow puddle which you splash through
barefoot, which can never wash off,
which dirties your soles at the motion of the stars
or an unexpected sound

Dedicate yourself to it,
spare no expense,
cut the drama, turn right around,
and walk, like Woolf, directly into the river


Making Copies

In a staticless suit of soft
white fabric, a human,
unfeatured, is making copies.
It scans down the list,
checkboxes on each line
on a schedule. It notes
the discs under the light
look like mirrors
moving along, conveyed
by the needs of production.

It knows each set
by its catalogue number,
reference number, production total,
and by the sound of metal
fingers tapping plastic
samples, testing fidelity.

It sees a life’s work pass by in an hour, ten
thousand times, every day, never
knowing what exactly was sung
by that life into a membrane,
pulled out by a repeating red light
through some headphones.



What is a superhero but an expert
in a particular subject: rescue,
a substitute God we can see
and make pleas to
But Superman suspended above
the city lived decades as Clark
and when he thinks of home
it is not some distant
destroyed fragment
that makes him ache
but a farmhouse in a field
where his parents showed him what it meant
to be human


Robert Schuster was Fiction & Poetry Open First Runner-Up in From the Depths, and his work has appeared in Eureka Literary Magazine, Swamp Ape Review, the Magnolia Review, Black Market Re-View, Blast Furnace and SPLASH!. He was a guest poet at the River City Poets’ Tea for Two poetry reading in Richmond, Virginia. He spent most of his childhood in Norway and Singapore before returning to the United States for high school. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English, Creative Writing and Politics from Oberlin College and an MFA in fiction from George Mason University. He was fiction co-editor for GMU’s feminist literary journal, So to Speak, from summer 2014 through spring 2015. He currently works as an English teacher in Staunton, Virginia and lives with his fiancé in Charlottesville.

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