She lived as a fire and went as a coal on the hearth, yearning for more tinder until there was not one single thing left but the ash of her body and the curling smoke of her will, rising up finally and at last in peace after such a long and beautiful conflagration. It is her first birthday after death. She is leaning on the everlasting arms. Or more likely inspiring the everlasting arms to write. Happy birthday, dear fiery Mom. “What is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days.” [James Russell Lowell]
We love you.
—Bethany Schneider on Facebook about her mother, Pat Schneider, June 1, 2021
Though you lived near it, the Pacific was not your ocean
for most of your life, you Midwestern transplant to the Atlantic,
who deeply admired rivers and streams, arteries flowing seaward.
How many visitors did you take to your favorite cemetery
hard by the Connecticut River, to walk among the revered
dead, imagine their lives based only on names and dates?
Catharine, wife of Robert, 1779
Thankful, wife of Nathaniel, 1783
Now your stone in another cemetery bears your name atop
your beloved’s, he who followed you into mystery
four months after your departure — no “wife of,”
no “husband of,” though you two were that and more.
And on the 87th anniversary of your birth, almost
a year after your death, I walk the western edge
of the continent, the Pacific peaceful for the moment,
temporary occupant of Casa Pacis — house of peace —
as I turn the tiller into the wind. You would
cheer this new direction, remind me that
a poet needs time and space to stoke the fires,
let the white heat of the muse burn us into ash.
As I stroll the damp shore — white lace surf scalloping
black sand — your voice surges, retreats with the foam:
“Enjoy these perfect days, regardless of the weather,
so many precious hours with your beloved.”
Thankful, I look to him nearby, smile my silent promise
to the horizon in this sea of serenity, forever and ever,
At The Sea Ranch, Sonoma coast, California, June 1, 2021,
on what would have been Pat Schneider’s 87th birthday