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This is Michigan-- ripped by glaciers
and soothed by the subsequent sea.
Great Lakes wash over wounds, mastodon bones,
Petoskey stones.  Sleeping Bear Dune keeps watch,
but Lake Michigan steals sand
with every wave and sends back snow
to kill November flowers.


                 from; Oak Leaves by Linda Leedy Schneider







     Albania: Day Fourteen

     To a Poem Written Yesterday

     Words Struggle in Me

     My Hands Speak After 35 Years

     Wind, Water, Fire and Stone

     Oak Leaves

     Conversation: Alzheimer’s Unit

     Perfect Pruning Shears

     Marché, Paris 

     Five Minutes Between Therapy Clients


     I reclaim - 2012 Contemporary American Poetry Prize winner




Linda Leedy Schneider



Linda Leedy Schneider is a political activist, poetry and writing mentor, and psychotherapist in private practice. She has been a faculty member at Aquinas College and Kendall College of Art and Design.  Linda received The 2012 Contemporary American Poetry Prize, a Readers’ Choice Award from Pedestal Magazine, and was honored by the Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She leads workshops nationally for venues including the Manhattan Writing Workshop and The International Women’s Writing Guild’s Annual Conference at Yale University. Her work has been published in hundreds of literary magazines including The Pedestal Magazine, Rattle, and The Sow’s Ear. She has written six collections of poetry including Some Days: Poetry of a Psychotherapist (Plain View Press 2011) and has edited two collections of poetry written by poets whom she has mentored: Mentor’s Bouquet (Finishing Line Press 2010) and Poems From 84th Street (Pudding House Publications 2010).


The poem which won the Grand Prize in the 2012 Contemporary American Poetry Prize is at the foot of this feature, and see;








Albania: Day Fourteen

She follows the winding path

from the state orphanage to the Adriatic Sea,

which is clotted with oil on its Eastern shore.

A boy walks by and holds up a fistful

of writhing eels, a Medusa head,


like the eel  they ate the night before,

while a blind guitarist played,

and fried eel was offered

followed by fig cake studded with fly legs.

Because the road to Skodra passed over a ravine,

they had walked a rope-hung bridge one

by one to get to that State Dinner.


It was a time of war,

gunfire over the mountains in Kosovo,

infants dying for lack of IV tubing,

rickets, ringworm, cleft palates,

              eels and bodies.


So last night when the music started

and that man said, “Come.”

She did and danced till it all was gone.

Nothing but two bodies and the beat

            --Nothing but bodies




To a Poem Written Yesterday


                                         I was working on the proof of one of my poems all morning,

                                         and took out  the comma. In the afternoon I put it back in again.

                                                                                                                   Oscar Wilde                                                                                                                                                                  

You incubated in darkness,

were born in a yellow notebook,

loved like any fantasy child.

Then the rearranging began.

Was one line too long? I amputated.

Did you need more color?

I gave you the fuchsia of peonies.

The fresh green of new growth.

Then attached the amputation to a short sibling.

Your song began to sound listless

I added some liquid alliteration.

Your rhythm seems off.

I tapped my fingers, beat a drum,

marched and again added

and subtracted parts,

until you didn’t resemble the poem I loved yesterday....

So now after seven versions,

singing, amputating, drumming, and reading into a recorder,

I return to the original pushed out on the page

and find I still love it     unconditionally.

It’s uneven edges,

the yellow and fuchsia dance between green reattached lines.

One line seems to sings to another, a heart beats.

Yesterday’s poem has decided to stay.





Words Struggle in Me

     the way babies once kicked,

full of possibility, 

but needing time to incubate,

to drink from my body

until time to line up and be born.

I take my words to see Monet and Olendorf,

read them poetry by Oliver and Eliot,

let them inhale fresh bread and damp sheets,

hear Bach and The Beatles.

I carry them to the gym

where they roll around

as I count steps and reps.

I let them consider rhythm.

They travel with me to the grocery store

where I pick up turkey and provolone,

two apples and dark chocolate.

The words arrange and rearrange

themselves as I collect my groceries.

I take my words on walks,

let them play with other people’s words,

even trade some away and take on others

like amoeba exchange parts

for recreation or procreation.

A writer must be ruthless

with her words.

They are only the bricks:

not the breath, the baby or the poem.






My Hands Speak After 35 Years

Paris was served on a fresh plate
with honey on the side,
and I took its hand.
My left hand says this is true.

I call my right, the one that thought
we should have married the doctor.
It touches my hair as the phone rings.
“Why haven’t you called?”

my husband of thirty-five years asks.
My right hand cups my right breast,
the one that always tightens first,
the one my husband seems to prefer.

I am 57. I am 57.
Next year I will be 58 whether or not
I accept Paris, which speaks of music,
poetry and the dance that could save us all.

My right hand remembers my husband.
“My baby, my child.” he said,
as he held his hand on my belly,
waited for an answer from my womb.

My left hand says, “That child is 33
and now mother to her own children.”
My left hand says, “Your womb is gone.”
My left hand says, “Next year you will be 58,

and may never again be offered
Paris     on any plate.”




Wind, Water, Fire and Stone


It is the stone in my pocket,

the rough one, with its vein of quartz,

a hidden, forever fire. I can touch

that stone, and no one knows.


It is the beat of a bass drum

that calls my body to consider rhythm,

to remember the wash of waves

that carried us forward in the march 

through twilight into night.


It is that sunny day in March

that stirs my desire for more,

yet I feel suspended

like a stemmed cherry

captured in a cube of ice.


Everything circles and dances

like tongues of fire on the hearth,

like a willow caught in the wind,

like the confusion of waves before a storm,

like the stone that blazes in my hand.




Oak Leaves



I am Alyssum, the last flower alive in this planter.
It's November for God's sake, and here I am small
pure like baby's breath or bridal lace.
I bloom among the blighted.


Geranium's flare of fuchsia

is now black and curled into itself
like an infant pulls in his legs
to remember the sea.

Daisy’s only eye is closed.

She holds her seeds close.


This is Michigan-- ripped by glaciers
and soothed by the subsequent sea.
Great Lakes wash over wounds, mastodon bones,
Petoskey stones.  Sleeping Bear Dune keeps watch,
but Lake Michigan steals sand
with every wave and sends back snow
to kill November flowers.


White on white, I will succumb.
November, trees empty except for the oak
that hangs on to its dead,

carries them-- brown, broken, afraid to let go.


My left eye hurts, waters, clouds this page.
I have sliced onions to make stock.
Soup-- what else can I do when words wither,
and she hangs on brittle, crumpled,
as afraid as the oak leaves?




Conversation: Alzheimer’s Unit

                                        after Mark Strand


Mother, why did you have me?

I wanted a daughter

 with long eyelashes.

Mother, why did you have me?

You were born ten months

after Pearl Harbor. I wanted

to save your father from war.


Mother, why do you cry?

I cry for Lorraine who died,

the sister whose name I bear.

Mother, why do you cry?

I cry because I never wanted

to be anyone’s Mother.


Mother, how are you now?      

I am floating. I am Lorraine, the virgin.

My eyelashes are longer than yours.

Mother, how are you now?

My belly aches. This place you put me in

never gives me enough food.


Who are you, Mother?                          

No one. I raised myself.

Who are you, Mother?                           

Your Grandmother Marie,

who left her wedding ring

to you and not to me.


Mother, why did you tell me not to be too smart?

Because no man would want you,

you would be an Old Maid.

Mother, why did you tell me not to be too smart?

Because your father loved learning

and left me for you.


Mother, do you love me?

I love you, My Pretty. 

Mother, do you love me?                  

You were born in one unendurable pain.

I was torn apart.




Perfect Pruning Shears

I am a bright blue Iris that blooms

by her back door. I am as precious

as the black tulip that is rooted in her heart.
Five paper- wrapped messages

wait on my stalk.
They will open sequentially

in this garden of symmetry,
scatter yellow truth again.

Everyday she comes

with those gold scissors,
prunes away the less than pretty.
Daffodils withered and wasted,
naked tulip stalks,
peony blossoms that
have sagged to the soil.
In this garden of symmetry, security, sameness,
every flower must be

the picture on the seed packet.

We flowers think
she should throw away her shears.
Let us be!
Tall as the lilac,
free as the one-eyed daisy,
Let us ramble like the rose.

She could climb the cherry tree
live in the shifting clouds of beginnings,
let humming birds nest in her hair,
be washed by rain till
the golden scissors
grow green.



Marché, Paris 


A boy offers bouquets of peony buds

dressed in baby's breath at the market on Wilson.

She sees crepes being cooked on a metal barrel

then blanketed with cheese,

drizzled with only the egg white,

the yolk still captured

in the broken shell.

The white is smoothed over the crepe and cheese

like a fresh bed sheet

and finally the puncture and spreading of the yolk.


“Whole wheat crepes,” the man says

as he rolls them to tubes.

She eats at his checkered table,

then gathers prawns, escargot, a quilt of greens,

tomatoes, and fresh goat cheese.


As she leaves, the boy is still asking

each shopper to consider his peonies,

but the shoppers know the buds are small, hard

and tight, too tight like the closed eyes of a kitten

born too soon, or the skin over a bellyful of baby,

or the smile of the boy's mother who hides nearby.


The woman buys one of the boy’s bouquets,

cuts the stems back hard,

places them in warm water,

carries the vase to the sun.

One of the buds opens wide, luminous, lacy,

a sphere that makes the woman remember words

like egg, baby, puncture, quilt, boy, mother.

She pulls the solitary blossom to her breast

and begins to rock.




Five Minutes Between

Therapy Clients


Through my window I see

swans float on a man-made

pond with a concrete fountain.

Look into an impressionist oil

over my desk. Lush peonies

and always the one fallen perfect petal.

No insects, no rain, no rot.


In these minutes I see

the painting’s imperfect perfection

for the first time:

after the woman who found

her husband naked with her sister-in-law

and before the college professor

who doesn’t know why he cries.








Red, round, ripe,

full of the sun’s heat

familiar in my hand

like a newborn’s head


Little pumpkin

of pleasure

dressed in

six scalloped leaves


Leaves that held

the flower

that needed

the bees or a breeze


To start the seeds

in these

red ovaries.



there is

so much sex

in my sink,


I need to

turn away

and quickly brown

 the bulbous onions.









2012 Contemporary American Poetry Prize:

Grand Prize Winner 

I Reclaim by Linda Leedy Schneider


I Reclaim

I reclaim the orchard.
Tear down the houses. 
Plant trees.
I reclaim buds, blossoms and bees.
I reclaim milk in glass bottles
left in a tin box, frozen cream 
that rose to the top
broke open the seal.
I reclaim the lid I slid 
off popping corn
to delight my dog
who ate the evidence.
I reclaim my father’s lap,
towers of blocks built
for the thrill of their crash,
being able to rebuild 
over and over.
I reclaim myself from rows of wooden desks,
crayons I must not peel, arithmetic facts,
surplus apples, and the names on the blackboard
under We do not talk in work period.
I reclaim the live monarch
I had to impale and spray
with fixative for Miss Mason
whose wall of breasts fed no one.
I reclaim the girl who finally refused 
to kill a frog for the biology teacher.
I reclaim that girl and the right
to rebuild any tower
over      and over again.




3 - Publishing History


To a Poem Written Yesterday  First published in SNReview

My Hands Speak After 35 Years  First published in Pedestal Magazine

Wind, Water, Fire and Stone  First published in Word Riot

Oak Leaves   First published in The Pedestal Magazine

Conversation: Alzheimer’s Unit  First published in The Sow’s Ear

Marché, Paris   Published in Pedestal Magazine

Tomato First published in The Spoon River Poetry Review  Nominated for a Pushcart Prize

I Reclaim  First published in Rattle

4 - Afterword

Email Poetry Kit - info@poetrykit.org    - if you would like to tell us what you think. 

We are looking for other poets to feature in this series, and are open to submissions.  Please send one poem and a short bio to - info@poetrykit.org

Thank you for taking the time to read Caught in the Net.  Our other magazine s are Transparent Words ands Poetry Kit Magazine, which are webzines on the Poetry Kit site and this can be found at -