I turn my palm up in air.
One, two drops.
My soul is water, also.
Can I evaporate?
You are a solid made of liquids.
A solid liquid gas.
Drop kiss me.
You become air.
Dream, hazy, deferred, my first memory of love sitting on a park bench in a downpour, you teaching me to French kiss. What mistake was there?
I do not remember
whether you found me
or I found water
Gathering you with the same palms
that water grazed—
We hid in your van even as we knew it was ending. Pattering drops lazy on the hood. You telling me: it was alright.
Continued in Water, Water, Everywhere
Published on Columbia Journal, August 2017
amidst walk our life
I discovered myself through a dark wood
for the True path was lost
when to speak is hard
full trees strong dense unquantifiable
renew thought renews my fear
little more bitter death
but to try the good out I search
I speak of other things seen
is it most unclear whether one or the other is better?
let Us try again.
in the Spanish earth
i find him moldering
beneath a pine slat
as if someone recently moved the body
and he clawed to life
imp word creature
who ended dead dude
and we decided idoled
and thus it became
both ends burning
Published in Verde Que Te Quiero Verde, 2017
Poems after Federico García Lorca
Published in The Adirondack Review, 2017
By Federico García Lorca
green I want you green
green wind green branches
The boat about the sea
And the horse on the mountain.
With her shadow at her waist,
She dreams on her railing,
green flesh green hair
With eyes of cold silver.
green I want you green
Beneath the gypsy moon,
Some things are watching her
And she cannot watch them.
Continued in The Adirondack Review
with “Narcissus”, “Nueva York: Office and Denunciation”, and “Adam”
“I never imagined, as a quietly rebellious child, that I would one day write a ‘quasi-defense’ of small-town America, using Henderson as an example.”
Excerpted from We Knew No Mortality: Memories of Our Spiritual Home, released in March 2018 by Acta Publications.
“We have dragged Christmas trees through the mud with a mule team (wondering, could an 8th grader today do that?); drilled holes in trees to add branches decorated with bulbs or popcorn-and-cranberry strings; we’ve had pink aluminum trees with rotisserie lights, or Douglas Firs; we have revealed the tree with childlike delight, or left the White Room open for visitors; we live, here or there or Anywhere; we retain memory, in our blood, our mind.”
“…the sacred level is compromised, my prince; time to look for higher ground.”
Ca’Venezia is an artist book of hybrid writing, to be released by Partial Press in 2021.
This book features two plays-in-verse and assorted poetry and prose circling around Venice, Italy, and climate change’s impact on the city.
This content is based on my travels in Venice during 2014 on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
“He loved Venice, he wanted to be in Venice, there was nowhere else he could imagine himself thriving. I will remember Venice in this way, always: glowing with the quiet rhythm of Roberto’s song.”
*Viciousness in the bedroom! I am as good as my clock.
Sleep beckons: there is room here.
From the book flap:
In his first poetry collection, Robert Eric Shoemaker delves deeply into the darkest haven, a rift filled with addictions of harmful and placid varieties many are familiar with. Over the course of a month the writer’s attempts to remain sober and clean of all contaminants demonstrate an on-going internal battle, studded with triumphs and failures, moments of insight and moments of pain. Shoemaker’s language brims with the electrical quality of one on the edge, living as best one can under societal and artistic pressures, as well as personal demons. Shoemaker’s story and poetic voice are empathetic to the plight of multitudes. Sparkling with hope dipped in chaos, “30 Days Dry” proclaims with gusto the possibility of a future free of abuse.
I think I understand this time.
“You are blessed to hold in your hands Robert Eric Shoemaker’s vivid and charming first book of poems, composed as a “doctored prescription”: to refrain from boozy spirits, and to instead partake deeply of art making, the impetus for this lucky trade being a genuine display of paternal concern and love delivered in an American chain restaurant… In the realm of Shoemaker’s multi-tonal, plural “instants,” the “greens grow like spread seed,” and the poet finds the way beneath the various shades and arcs of one’s life, the buoyant rainbow in continual and generous burn and shatter to light up the city.”
—Jessica Savitz, author of Hunting is Painting
Dropping a coin into a boiling pot of water
“As amulet against the parched interior, 30 Days Dry wards off temptation with strongly worded texts and letters to a “mirror-me” we all recognize in one another. Round and round we go, cheering for a speaker who can spell out rightful histories in a luxurious aftermath of new grass growing.”
—Catherine Theis, author of The Fraud of Good Sleep
doesn’t make an impression.
“Like any self-help book addict waiting for the guru to publish the next volume, 30 Days Dry will make you thirst for more.”
-Jeri Frederickson, Literary Manager at Irish Theatre of Chicago & Freelance Writer
Can you spell history?
“Shoemaker squeezes the juice out of his thirty days.”
-Troy Cabida, Author of Lost in London
“I’d read more self help books if they represented honest, complicated journeys like this one… Robert Eric Shoemaker might be an undercover prophet.”
-Melissa Kiefer, Writer and Educator
“They knew the rain was coming; the shadow had fallen over Old Kuttawa months ago.”
We Knew No Mortality: Memories of Our Spiritual Home, released in March 2018 by Acta Publications, represents six years of writing and over 100 years of family history.
“We Knew No Mortality is a memory quilt sewn with spells, floods, and pink wounds. Shoemaker’s words shed to reveals themselves like a creature in crystallized grass-flats. This book is more than just a book. It’s a shared cigarette behind the boiler room. It’s a song for America-forgotten.”
— Sarah Escue, editor at The Adirondack Review
“As he attempts to collage the past to retell his family’s multilayered history, Shoemaker reveals that you, reader, are the sum of our environments; you are a collage, a fractal, an assemblage, a mosaic of filaments, known and unknown. You, too, originate from mud and shared blood. Along this journey of rediscovery, Shoemaker encounters dirty habits, penguin-like nuns with slapping sticks, and old winding back roads. In a way, he resurrects his past and his longing for a now distant childhood of rolling and running in the bluegrass with bare feet…We too experience a longing for home, a sanctuary filled with bluegrass and open ceilings. He tills memory and recites his dead; he sings hymns of ‘am’ and ‘am nots’: ‘I am not an architect, / I am a song.’“
— Sarah Escue, for Something on Paper
“You are the sum of your environments,
and no more.
Be light as feathers
and full in the belly,
put your hand into yourself and stir—
can you pull yourself out?”
“As the first section of We Knew No Mortality suggests, in these poems, at once elegant and welcoming, there is a recurring theme of the latent emerging, the ghost manifesting. Memory—inherited and personal—overlays the present, Jesus returns to wash us white as snow, capitalism reaches its culmination and fails. But latent potential and promise also surface and are realized, or at least the reader hopes for this. And hope matters, as any tender boy from a small town will tell you. The poems travel in a steady pace from Henderson, Kentucky, to Rome, to Chicago, and all the while we are reminded by these varied yet centered poems of how home is always present, even as the details of one’s life shift.”
— J’Lyn Chapman, author of Beastlife
“In We Knew No Mortality, Robert Eric Shoemaker travels back to his “ole Kentucky” town with Wally World and walks down memory lane. Here, family yarns of money buried in fruit jars and crucifixes sacrificed to storms coexist with a drug trip, retreat to Italy, and return to a sanctified self. With compassion and insight, Shoemaker considers his heritage and landscape, the “comfort and problems peculiar to the rural,” and the nature of spiritual homecoming. He writes: “I wipe my face in the mud. I can see my reflection.” Read this book and follow his lead.”
— Gabrielle Civil, author of Swallow the Fish