Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cadillac Men by Rebecca Schumejda

Rebecca Schumejda’s most recent collection of poems, Cadillac Men, has been published by NYQ Books in 2012. Her other works include Falling Forward from sunnoutside in 2009, and From Seed to Sin by Bottle of Smoke Press in 2011 as well as others, she has received her MA in Poetics and Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and her BA in English and Creative Writing from SUNY New Paltz. She currently resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her family. Rebecca Schumejda’s collection of poems about the trials and tribulations of the pool players in her and her husband’s pool hall are dead pan and gut-wrenching at times. Mrs. Schumejda also includes quotes from the pool players themselves and keeps the momentum of these personable players humming throughout the pages. With cover art by the multi-talented Hosho McCreesh, this book is a must read on a gray and/or rainy day. That’s how I read it, anyway, and it was perfect for the mood. Below I am happy to share a few sample poems:

Rosary Beads and Pool Balls

When the army
couldn’t salvage
Shake’s soul,
his mother’s fingers
kept track of Hail Marys
and Our Fathers
recited over decades
for her wayward son.

But no wooden beads
could save him
from the old ivories,
so she stayed awake
waiting for him,
sometimes for days.
When he came in,
she’d fix him a meal,
ask him when
he was going to find
a good woman
and settle down.

He’d kiss her forehead
and tell her he could
never find a woman
as good as her.
This made everything alright,
until she was waiting again.

After she passed,
Shakes started going
to church religiously.
He hung her rosary beads
from the rearview mirror
of his Cadillac.
Whenever the beads tap
Against the windshield,
it sounds like pool balls
in the distance
calling him home.

This poem paints a sentimental and woeful picture for me. I can picture this man who should have settled down years ago kissing his mother’s forehead, content with life, and then his mother is gone and he must turn somewhere else for comfort: church. The sound of the beads is audible in my mind and I thank the poet for using straightforward imagery to bring such a vivid picture to her poem.

The Pool Table, a Shallow Pond

One night, after hours at the bar
down the road, No That Pocket George
stumbles in to tell me about how
his brother drowned in a shallow pond
when they were playing hide and seek.

His mother never forgave him, so now
he hits the balls harder than he should
and thinks of his mother’s apron,
the one she always wore
even on the day her son
was buried behind the old barn;

the apron she wore
when she screamed
I hate you
into a callous sky because George was hiding
under the porch.

He whacks the cue ball, a white apron,
as hard as he can because
sometimes after he plays too long,
the cloth on the table is algae
masking a shallow pond.
And sometimes he drinks too much
beer foam looks like that film
sitting on a shallow pond.
And when there’s a full apron in the night sky,
he is that little boy hiding under the porch.

This is a tragic story captured in the brevity of a poem and it is gut-wrenching. I wonder if the poet feels a longing to reach out and reassure No That Pocket George while feeling helpless to do so as that is the feeling I am left with. This is when poetry is at its best, striking you in the chest and leaving you with all the emotions to ponder on.

The Table Swallows Wally the Whale

The table swallows Wally like poetry does to me,
Takes us away from the day’s drudgery:
paying the bills, worrying about what will break next,
and where we’ll get the money to fix it.

Fifteen object balls
Spread out across the felt;
twenty-six letter
in the alphabet;
we both dream
of possibilities, combinations, perfect breaks.

He spends afternoons
Practicing how to miss a shot;
while I pick apart words to resurrect.
We both have our own language:
and misunderstood.

We both struggle with rules.
I hold my pen with the same intensity
he does his cue.
Felt and paper
we navigate.

It’s when writing swallows me that I understand
his Captain Ahab-ish obsession:
how he sacrificed his wife and children
how the world, so invasive, disappears
when he leans over
to line up a shot.

I like that the poet relates to the player through her writing. I enjoy seeing writers talk about how they feel about their craft because I relate to it, too. For anyone who has a passion they sacrifice many things for it and often family, friends, and outsiders have a hard time understanding. Poems like this validate people’s passions and I appreciate that.

If you enjoyed this brief sample you may purchase a copy of Cadillac Men, length of 156 pages, for $16.95 at:

If you would like to learn more about Rebecca Schumejda whose work has appeared in sunnyoutside and Bottle of Smoke Press, among others, please visit her web-site at:

Thanks always for reading and please click in tomorrow…

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