Zero Readers

on flirting & skirting with undertows, rocky roads & 1_2_3

Jen Schneider

as a child i collect rocks. barefoot on gravel paths. peony pink paint on toenails. glitter specks and spectacles. my fingers move mountains as i dig for rocks of many shades. and many moons. underfoot. shards of glass. glasses always half full, eclipses always half acres wide. & out of reach. solar duals lunar in infinite loops. rocks everywhere. i gather them in soiled palms. collect them in plastic cups with off brand cracker dust and over-priced ice sandwich wrappers. as a child i count rocks. one. two. three.

crave 1, 2, 3. ready. set. go. drop 1, 2, 3.

barefoot in nightgowns of Tinkerbell and Cinderella. oversized and under worn. sleep always elusive. of dreams & wishes. mares with shiny manes. nights of sharp moments. of midnight sirens & overripe pumpkins. alarms around all corners. as a child i collect rocks. handwritten sticky notes. pennies of sweat-stained palms. hallmark cards of pleasant tidings. stored & stocked. on bedroom nightstands surfaces. in bedroom desk drawers. top right. lower left. scolded for too much clutter. no more. too much dust. ah choo. too much must. eww.

one unlaced Ked in front of the other. step. stomp. grope. grovel. on high roads & gravel paths. why must you 1. you must 2. never forget who gifted you 3.

fingers skim baseboard dust. in search of 1 — do i. must i. tiger eye. i do.

as a child i never fully grasped rock bottom – scars & tissues on/for/of hands, knees, & chambers of heart & mind, after decades of collecting rocks. scabs on knees. scraped elbows. childhood dust scattered everywhere, collected cups of graphite and sedimentary stones, layered of collections of recollections. handwritten notes inked of sharp words & edges. a blanket of weights too heavy to lift, before i knew what it meant to 1. to 2. to 3. on grounds of soft sand & dew kissed grass. in beds of lilac scented sheets & warm nightlights. where rocks are for glasses that clink and fingers that dazzle of artificial gemstones & genuine crisscrossed hearts. bowls of homemade applesauce simmer. rock shaped bubbles boil. cinnamon on top.

fingers flex as knuckles crack. in search of 2 — do i. must i. wide-eyed. i do.

do you know what it’s like to hit rock bottom? to drop be thrown into the deep end of a concrete pool, man made in a suburban jungle, and told to swim. it’s neither the stuff of a hallmark card, the ones in tiny plastic sliders in the oversized suburban mall, nor a hallmark of a life well-made. man made. not tailor made. all threads frayed. denim bell bottoms would graze the soiled floor of the concrete sinkhole. strawberry shortcake patches on knees and bums. raspberries on cheeks. rocks, torn frocks, and bottoms everywhere.

fingers point in unison. in search of 3. do i. must i. continue to try. i do.

research teaches most rocks are comprised of minerals. those that contain silicon. oxygen, too. in abundance. for that i should be grateful. vitamins & minerals part of a healthy diet. along with space to breathe. some say you have to taste the pain of loss to appreciate the sweetness of 1. 2. 3. someday i say, i might agree. today, i say, i do. as a child i collect rocks. of sharp & cutting edges. of words & eyes of swords. i know what it’s like to hit rock bottom. & then swim. back. up. through the deep end. chasing any ray of sun with the audacity to cut through icy waters and promise warmth. breaststroke. one. two. three. breathe. butterfly. one. two. three. breathe. hurry. quick. time stops for no one. the sun sets daily. flap wings. slice water. consume rays. emerge. breathe.

i know what it’s like to hit rock bottom. and then swim. back. up. & breathe. to

  1. live
  2. love
  3. life

ready. set. go. 1. 2. 3. breathe.

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. She loves words, warm welcomes, and winter (along with the other three seasons). Poetry is a perfect complement to all of her interests. Poetry is also a perfect sounding board for her many questions. She is a Best of the Net nominee, with stories, poems, and essays published in a wide variety of literary and scholarly journals.