Fred Schmalz is an artist and poet. His first full-length collection, Action in the Orchards (Nightboat Books), responds to encounters with dance, music, and visual art. His recent writing has appeared in Poetry, Conduit, and Oversound. His art collaboration with Susy Bielak, Balas & Wax, is currently in residence at Grand Central Art Center. With the Helsinki-based choreographic team Thar Be Dragons, they are part of Tanssin Talo's current SPARKS production development cohort.

www.fredschmalz.com and www.balasandwax.com

Day One

 

 

we stand our naked bodies

facing each other

snow is coming down

 

our journey begins

before daybreak

we will need blankets

 

gypsum pebbles

washed in an irregular

tin bowl

 

rice

we will feel compelled

to stop and relieve ourselves

 

at intervals

you will bleed into a feather

our cabin will tallow

 

its roof cave in a bit

one of us will require a bandage

at night we will

 

roast potatoes on a stick

then wrap ourselves in felt

satellites will

 

trace the heavens

coming slowly

into range

 

New Year’s Eve

 

 

leaning over a balcony railing

to shake the circular rug

of bread crumbs and seeds

gathered and shed

I have been thinking again

of how a year closes and another

sets out from home

in the lightest perceptible rain

nightfall comes slowly

the foxes that play in the roadway

and which I can see from here

trot off between houses

soon the shops will shutter

your daughters take spoons

to devour the cakes we brought

propped on round white plates

they remind me of

the palm-sized paving stones

we pocketed last night on our walk home

they are everywhere around us working

loose in the freeze the thaw the freeze

The price of bread

 

 

among women with women for eyes

cities rise and fall         with the price of bread

in the time it takes

 

sound to arrive             I move

about a hotel room

it has windows but the windows

 

look out onto other interior rooms

as much as I love its hearth      I have

spent years acclimating to accoutrements

 

hung above the mantle             animal trophies

flue drawing our fires

in a rush of air and danger

 

our bodies’ instincts

filigreed by touch         and in my hunger                   

this moment to savor

 

requests            I leave

the hotel for a diner counter               

where I may accompany

 

a small knot of bread and bowl of soup

into the latest hour before

the earliest hour overtakes

FluxConcert                     

 

 

1. the concert hall is not a museum

 

 

 

 

it is an apartment house

 

surrounding a courtyard                                                 a fountain

 

where our neighbors sing indiscriminately

 

 

from the balcony railings                                   accord

 

reached among tenants

 

who       pulley       love       notes       across       like       wash

 

 

 

the day’s last light

unrequited in its shadow-throwing

gathers at the foot of the steps

 

 

to honor the woman inside the cello

 

we offer an infinite Matryoshka 

 

musical notes

full of love to bursting             

 

we join with no idea what will happen

 

 

after the sun goes down                                  

 

 

 

 

 

 

(the effect is giddying)

 

when                                                 at a great distance

you prop sticks into a circular furrow

 

an ember flies from the fire

 

as you lean into your neighbor’s ear

 

 

to let out a surge of air

 

 

2. move around

 

 

 

 

arrive early

 

walk through the courtyard

 

seed the footpath behind you

 

 

pause to plant tulip bulbs at the foot of the fountain

 

 

 

gather the neighbors

 

hold hands in a circle                          

                                                            feel pulses complement

(mine faint              yours double-time)

 

 

split the night in two

lie on your back in the open cusp of one of its halves

 

 

remember this trajectory

                                                                        (stick notes in your shirt to help)

 

 

 

exit a door labeled “This Is Not a Door”

 

keep going              barely moving

 

learn by doing

remind me where we begin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. save for later

 

 

 

 

to wait for neighbors

is to imagine in silence

an end to silence

 

and to see in one window

 

a bright lamp and a woman

           

her back to us              ascending a stairwell

 

 

I find a piece of paper torn

 

watch it              flutter down              (long time coming)

 

leaving             red in tiny fingernails

 

 

dear letters                                   land in my lap

 

 

presents for you

 

 

a hole die-cut in a home          

 

a harp laid to rest

 

 

 

before the incredible quiet returns

 

let me see your face

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foraging in the woods

 

 

for what am I the question

get home safe                 bring back food

 

I take place over hundreds of years

entering a glowing passageway

 

my branches digest the open air

leaving obscured the precise altitude

 

assumed when I fear the invisible

get home safe                 bring back food

 

what wild hand has me by the nape

until I cough up

 

reasons to provide milk            a cord of wood

get home safe                 bring back food

 

how many have seen                more with grace than

a spark coddled in tinder and kindling

 

leaves us           at risk of sear

nature costumes the ear within

 

a radio playing into the courtyard

drones two stories about home

 

each one a different window

smoke enters                get home safe…

 

a sick upside    we simply can’t shake

suffering each other’s warmth

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

“Day One,” “The price of bread,” and “Foraging in the woods” appear in Conduit 30.

 

“New year’s eve” appears in Oversound 6.

 

“FluxConcert” was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic for
the FluxConcert of its 2018-19 Fluxus Festival.