DENNIS SCHMITZ POETS

Now that Dennis Schmitz is no longer officially a poet laureate of Sacramento, Eskimo can make fun of him. Actually Eskimo has nothing bad to say about Dennis; this is because she doesn't know him personally. The reason there is a class of poets called "Dennis Schmitz Poets" is because he taught Poetry for a long time at Sac State, so any of the poets who have gone through the program have usually studied under him. For a while, it seemed to Eskimo that everywhere she turned, someone's bio stated, "studied under Dennis Schmitz." Eskimo has never "studied under Dennis Schmitz"; however, she did attend one of his classes. No one noticed her however, because per usuelle in class situations, Eskimo hid in the corner. Other students usually think that Eskimo must be deaf and dumb until . . . the first grades come out and when it is discovered that Eskimo has thrown off the grade curve, they begin to hate her even more than when they thought she was a mute. And then when a fawning professor makes Eskimo read her essay in front of the class, none of the students ever speak to her again. When Eskimo went to Schmitz's class, they just happened to be discussing Joey Garcia's poems. There did seem to be a particular amount of fawning going on; but Eskimo can only fawn over Joey and other poets in her own mind and from a great distance. The fact that Joey is now getting paid for her writing and Eskimo isn't is a testament to the fact that Joey can call herself a "Dennis Schmitz Poet" and Eskimo can't. The best that Eskimo can do, since Dennis is retired, is attend his readings. And the most that Eskimo can ask from a reading is that it inspire her to go home and write; which is exactly what happened in April of 1995:

Remembrance of Things Past (written after a Dennis Schmitz reading)

I listened to you read, feeling emotion move up thru me like slow warm mercury. Listening to myself laugh like opaque grape grapes squishing underfoot. Letting go of any emotional or intellectual vantage point. Diving like a skilled bird of prey off a red rock cliff into a surround-a-sound of blue sky, all my loose ends thrown into the drawstring opening of a perfect round sun. You became my father, my mother, my childhood, my death. Your happiness tasted like bright saucy strawberries as I kneeled to pluck them from their gracious vines with my mouth. I gorged on your hungry sadness hanging ripe and full like blueberries in summer dust. Your regret waved like yellowed grass and feathered seeds flying in the breeze. Yes I loved Anna Karenina too. A blood-red rose shredded by the evening's lawnmower. Even tho' I hated Tolstoi for killing her, you made me listen to you recount his life story. You made me want to die like Tolstoi, like a character in a Lawrence novel, madly--in the snow. You made me realize that my poems are only half of what they want to be because I've lived my life in two diametrically opposed landscapes. And as I walk through the mossy, sun-filtered forest, I stumble across piss-stained cement; and oaks and manzanitas and oleander cross my eyes as I try to conjure up a vision of innocent fucking in a private forest of alders and wild celery and poisonous bear berries. And every night the train comes rumbling through my dreams like a great beast, like Thoreau's "iron monster," trashing the remembrances of half my life when every night was perfectly and absolutely silent save for the wind. You made me realize as I spun round the tightly spiraled freeway in my car on the electric-lit dark drive home, that maybe Sacarmento is a transition city, a city which teaches you what it's like to live in a city, teaches you what you've lost, and what you want. You made me want to leave the city, returning to Faulkner's less populous world, lazing under the sycamore in my back yard, his words grafting onto my bones and burgeoning into my skin like cold green grass on growth hormones. You made me remember how much I love words and books, as if I could have forgotten. You gave me back my eyes, and I could see the ecstacy of a Gregor Samsa cockroach in full regalia like a Don Quixote parade crawling over Pablo Neruda's boyhhood hand. Michaelangelo, you said, always painted hard bodies, everyone in a Tai Chi stance. The fingers--pointing, condemning, melting into a hunk of obsidian like Rodin's lovers. Oh Anna, where is your silent heart? Why not ride the iron monster instead of letting it eat you alive? Madame Bovary and you. Love or death. Death and love. Jezebels killed by a man's existential pen and hand. And you, poet, made me remember all this. All the endings, and most of all, the beginning. You made me remember the forest promenade, my own Swann's Way of white flowers and virgin sunlight held forever shining in my mother's outstretched arms.

Copyright EPG