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  • Slow Motion, and: The Idle Ants, and: Trying to Sleep, and: The Sun That Reds, and: Laniakea
  • Joyce Schmid (bio)

Slow Motion

A breeze is blowing on a reservoir tucked in tawny, sun-flashed hills splotched here and there with trees, anomalously green.

A boy is standing at the water’s edge, a fishing rod held out beyond the shore. The sun is moving over him and growing him as though he were a tree.

The same breeze finds him later in the day at an amusement park, where he is spinning upside down and soaking wet, incubated by the same warm sun.

When he gets home, his mother thinks he is the boy he was, but he is not the same, just as the sun itself, the grow light of our little world

is daily bigger, warmer, nurtured by a grow light of its own. [End Page 129]

The Idle Ants

Not the ones who clean the colony, not the ones who go outside to fight or hunt for food,

not the queen, who labors in her chamber, too exhausted to remember

flying in the sun. I mean the other ants, the ones who only stand and sense

the universe, the ones who broadcast beauty all throughout the nest

to shield their sisters from the black of space, the raw, incinerating stars. [End Page 130]

Trying to Sleep

Brooklyn, 1944

As I was watching strips of light that moved across the ceiling in the night,

as I was lying in my baby body in that giant bed, uneasy feelings keeping me awake,

men were killing people in another place, ordinary men, my father, learning war.

I didn’t hear the crystal break or smell the human smoke, or see the bodies hanging from the lampposts in the towns,

or feel the swarming armies smash, or hear the airplanes scream and bomb.

All I saw were eerie strips of light that moved across the ceiling in the much too quiet night. [End Page 131]

The Sun That Reds

The sun that reds tomatoes, opens roses, and creates a filigree of shadows, wrinkles me.

Some women hold umbrellas to the light. I don’t.

As children of the New York summer, we lay out on blankets on the beach. The sun hung in the air,

suspended in a grand jeté before it landed lightly where the earth meets sky.

We gave ourselves to sun, our bodies burning, child-skin peeling off like eucalyptus bark.

That was our glory and our pride. We didn’t know that we were shedding life,

we didn’t know the sun we loved was rolling time around us, smooth as spider’s silk. [End Page 132]


Streams of galaxies flowing through space reveal the contours of a structure known as Laniakea.

—N. I. Libeskind and R. B. Tully, Scientific American, July 2016

An astronaut must find his death familiar, somewhere he’s been before, a place outside of place, outside of time, where stars rush by

and galaxies form into filaments and sheets and voids, the microstructure of some greater whole, the vast nerve rete of a fractal god.

But death will take me by surprise, the way my mother, drugged to sleep, suddenly unclosed her eyes and stared, amazed, before she died. [End Page 133]

Joyce Schmid

Born in New York, the daughter of a music teacher and an English teacher, Joyce Schmid has been writing poetry all her life. As an undergraduate at Harvard, she learned from Richard Poirier to analyze poems, and she won prizes for the translation of Russian poetry as a graduate student at Columbia. Her recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Chautauqua, Atlanta Review, Blueline, and other journals and anthologies. She and her husband of half a century live in Palo Alto, California, too far from their grandchildren.



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pp. 129-133
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