If Once You Were German

 

Published in The Gordian Review

and in We Knew No Mortality


If Once You Were German

If once you were German, you are now my piece of history.

You floated in the streets of Berlin before it became a nouveau-riche haven,

and you threw hollowed out bricks

into real glass windows

and broke the rules.

You tell me how fragile your childhood experience

how happily you called out to Father Christmas from the porch stoop
as Father Schweizer crept sideways with

his tar-black boots and cheap presents.

You wrinkle your eyebrows, your whole face wrinkles,

pursing up like a very sage walrus with yellowed tusks and soft skin,

and you say it again, how fragile your childhood,

when you walked onstage and dropped the armful of plates.

If once you were my heroine, you are now fine China on a shelf

not an exotic land none of us have ever seen—

inside a lacquered cabinet, unable to collect dust, as is natural.

I wonder what it would be like to polish your broken tusks, lather up that pruned face,

and take you out for one more whirl about the town, hot-and-scanty, we!

Would you remember me

as my Volkswagen turned about the familiar streets where once

in dreams you sauntered?

Once you were historical, but now we are a history

as we float through the streets of Godland: one hand on a cane, one hand on the earth.

Sublimation

 

Published in Water, Water, Everywhere


Sublimation.

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
first.
Thirst, quenched.
Gathering you with the same palms
that water grazed—
chasing fog.
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

 

Mistranslation of Dante’s Inferno

Published on Columbia Journal, August 2017

A Mistranslation of Dante’s Inferno

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
Columbia Journal: “MISTRANSLATION OF DANTE’S INFERNO”

Impicture

 


impicture
is it most unclear whether one or the other is better?
let Us try again.
rooted
in the Spanish earth
i find him moldering
beneath a pine slat
as if someone recently moved the body
and he clawed to life
:DUENDE:
imp word creature
who ended dead dude
ended homophonic
and we decided idoled
and thus it became
both ends burning
their ro(o)ts
better?

Published in Verde Que Te Quiero Verde, 2017

Poems after Federico García Lorca

 

Four Poems by Lorca

Four Poems

Published in The Adirondack Review, 2017

 

Sleepwalker’s Ballad

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”

Postface as Memory

“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.”

Design by Wayne Yandell; Photography by Sara Shoemaker

“Postface as Memory” published in Barely South Review, 2018

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.”

Ca’Venezia

Reproduction of a Venetian map, drawn by Robert Eric Shoemaker

“…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.

“Grand Canal” by Robert Eric Shoemaker, from Ca’Venezia and other tales. Watercolor.

“Laser-Pointer Grid” by Robert Eric Shoemaker, from Ca’Venezia and other tales. Watercolor.

This content is based on my travels in Venice during 2014 on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

“Lolita” by Robert Eric Shoemaker, from Ca’Venezia and other tales. Watercolor.

“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.”

“The Portal Shuts” by Robert Eric Shoemaker, from Ca’Venezia and other tales. Watercolor.

30 Days Dry

Day one.

*Viciousness in the bedroom! I am as good as my clock.

Sleep beckons: there is room here.

Purchase on Amazon
News Release

30 Days Dry
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.

Day thirty.

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 can.

“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

We Knew No Mortality

Featured in We Knew No Mortality: Memories of Our Spiritual Home. Curated by Sara Shoemaker.

“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.
Purchase on Amazon
We Knew No Mortality review at Something on Paper
We Knew No Mortality Purchasing Sheet
WKNM @ Acta Publications

Featured in We Knew No Mortality: Memories of Our Spiritual Home. Curated by Sara Shoemaker.

“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 

Featured in We Knew No Mortality: Memories of Our Spiritual Home. Curated by Sara Shoemaker.

“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

Featured in We Knew No Mortality: Memories of Our Spiritual Home. Curated by Sara Shoemaker.

“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

 

“This gifted poet reverently unwinds the tight scroll that is like the tree trunk of a family tree, unrolling this sacred scroll that reveals living map, hymnal, inheritance of memory. Opening and opening to find the deep core “in a solace of pine,” as mythic charms like old family story go chiming through the blood in song. Such spells of dry earth into songs of water! The family story Shoemaker is remembering, is in his blood that is like a song in the body, “a spark that fell out of a bonfire.” Not within the cage of a photograph can one locate the nature of self; rather, here is the breathtaking primer for reading one’s history by “earth-light”: “I wipe my face in the mud. I can see my reflection.” It is in the fountain erected in his hometown where Shoemaker will frolic at the source: “I remember this fountain / Going up / The first time / And playing in it.” This collection is meant to be sung! In the root dreams of the tree that was and the tree that is still becoming, and down deeper still, in the “stream beneath the water,” the underground waterfall of family music where it issues forth from the tap of a cistern, the underground reservoir concocting legends of love and sorrow—I shall never tire of visiting this sacred place. In my very favorite poem, I hear in the flood of folk song the voice of the immortal family, from family grove to groves of antiquity, come to serve us mirth, lullaby, and compassion: “You’re swimming with me in Kentucky / as I drown in the sediment of an ancient suburb. / I am drowning while you fight through bluegrasses. / I am drowning when you get to my side, breathlessly. / You gather me in your arms.”
— Jessica Savitz, author of Hunting is Painting

Featured in We Knew No Mortality: Memories of Our Spiritual Home. Curated by Sara Shoemaker.

“Basketball dreams, / Or grander, even, / Leavin’ plows for town, / leavin’ empty silos,” Shoemaker closes the poem titled “Corn Festival, 2015” in a tone characteristic of We Knew No Mortality. There are blues in the grass of this Kentucky landscape, and there are blues in the speaker’s throat when he leaves it. An “outsider, an outlier,” he becomes strange to himself in pursuit of grand dreams, even as those left behind become clearer with distance, including Sammie-Jo, presiding from her couch throne, and Carl-Ra, burying fruit jars full of money. Memory inhabits the present in these poems, even as it suggests a new way to exist in it.”
— Amy Wright, author of Cracker Sonnets and Everything in the Universe, Nonfiction Editor, Zone 3 Press

“but my soul grew up on Graham Hill,

my feet treading snakes in the grasses so flaming.”