Autumn Lady, poems John Pinschmidt
John Pinschmidt, born in Denver in 1947, is a retired high school English and drama teacher. He lives in Herbertstown, Co. Limerick, Ireland with his Irish wife in her family’s ancestral stone farmhouse. Although he has written poetry for over 40 years, he only seriously pursued publication since unexpectedly taking first runner up in Limerick City’s October 2009 Cuisle International Poetry Festival Slam. It opened doors to a performance poet who writes accessibly about what moves him, capturing and celebrating current and past lives. His first collection, Maiden Voyage, was published by Revival Press in February, 2014. He plans to have a second collection published in 2019. Maiden Voyage is sold at www.limerickwriterscentre.com and www.omahonys.ie.
A Picture Before Leaving
To Robert Falcon Scott
Read at Limerick’s White House Bar Open Mic January 18, 2012
Frozen wastes at the bottom of the world.
Five men pulling sledges for three months
finally reach their goal, the South Pole,
on January 17, 1912. But not first.
There was the nearly snow-covered tent,
the Norwegian flag above shredded by fierce winds.
Skied and dog-sledded Amundson
took the prize a month before,
he and his four fur-dressed men, all smiles,
their white breath smelling of the dogs they ate.
Next day, a picture before leaving. Englishman Scott
and his men: Oates, Bowers, Wilson and Evans,
in dirty woolens, eyes near shut, defeated, face the lens
and their long trek back to civilization.
The elements too overcame them,
and their frozen bodies lie silent, under ice.
But a mighty epitaph, beyond all warm-breathed living words,
transformed their epic defeat. Arms thrown back,
under his shoulders in his last tent, were Scott’s Diaries,
giving heart to those who brave unknown elements
without and within, man-hauling into Eternity,
with his last lines: “It seems a pity, but I do not think
I can write more. For God’s sake look after our people.”
My Halloween Jack O’Lantern
Three days before my second hip replacement surgery
on Halloween I carved and perched you
above the front door on the window ledge
in all your hollow orange pumpkin glory,
triangle eyes and nose, big three-toothed smile
for the little trick or treaters below after dark that night.
The night before I went for my op I perched you on the stone wall
Near the old pump in the back yard and I lit you up again.
And weeks later now your eyes watch me as I daily walk
the circuit of the back-yard flagstones and pavers
on crutches time and time again, slowly getting better each day
as you collapse, barely smiling now, watching me.
The rain falls on you this morning and there is mould
inside where the candles brightly laughed.
Soon I’ll gently carry you to the compost heap
but I’ll always remember your handsomeness declining
as I slowly inclined towards smiling, walking without pain
on flagstones, pavers, and in the garden where you were born.
to the painting Sunshine in the Beguinage by Norman Garstin, 1908
Oh, black-capped, black-cloaked Autumn Lady of the trees’ shade,
the blond-haired, white-dressed little girl before you
clumsily rakes amber leaves on the flagstones and cobbles,
their flat and rounded textures echoing the glorious building behind you
What about that amber front wall, the cream door arches
and window surrounds at your back, better than in full bright,
the tree-filtered speckled sunshine making a sparkling tableau
of rich dappled color?
Yet, before such splendor you only look down on the little one,
lost in her leaf-raking world,
Before me is the bookless front cover of a paperback
marked above in tiny print A SIGNET CLASSIC 151-CJ1239-$1.95
worn tissue thin at the edges,
deeply creased from years of student hands.
This seven-by-four-inch monument is not to Bulkington,
but Melville, Ahab, Moby Dick, scores of students, and me.
Green frames Ahab who is down center,
the raging blue and red sea behind,
the iron in his right hand pointing to the title just above.
He is wind-swept, craggy, thin, as angular as Lincoln,
and Moby Dick’s tail is below his harpoon-clenched hand.
What crowns all is the wear, encroaching white
under the printed colors, the real thing unlike the artist’s
nervous lines around the title, meant to give it the
movement and tension that time and use actually achieved.
The ones in my charge looked up at me
like the congregation to Father Mapple in the Seamen’s Bethel,
the crew to Ahab next to the Pequod’s mast.
This ex-teacher can only hope the story is still in their minds,
whatever about its shipload of metaphors and symbols.
Oh, that they could see this old cover that says everything soundlessly,
the white whale, the crag of a man, his Arrowhead pointing up
to the masterpiece title, its author’s name above.
© John Pinschmidt