A Shriek Went Up My Spine Like an Unwelcome Snake: Poetry by Will Schmit


photo on unsplash by Chrissie Giann (c)

A Shriek Went Up My Spine Like An Unwelcome Snake

The sun misses everyone murdered.
Florists unveil the black daffodil it is considered they did their part.
I write in borrowed blood. 
The words verdant and verdict burn under a magnifying glass. 
Mourning breaks the skull open. A scheduled press release  
suggests victims won’t read it. Pulling over shifts the planet.
The flashing blue line light fades like a pulse.
The next day teachers unfold their lesson plans. Peer pressure distills the talk to grade school level. Nothing prepares. 

About Will Schmit and a new poem “Six Strings Untie the Knot”

 2 Poems by Will Schmit in Fevers of the Mind Press Presents the Poets of 2020 

Wednesday with Will Schmit : A Blog Entry about learning Culture and Diversity

Poem by Will Schmit : Appointment Books Fail to Guarantee

About Will Schmit and a new poem “Six Strings Untie the Knot”

My name is Will Schmit. I began writing
poetry in the late 1960’s on a dare from a
high school English teacher who took
umbrage at my sarcastic response to his
suggestion Rod McKuen was the next Carl
Sandburg. I didn’t know who the first Carl
Sandberg was either but I was sure the
poetry foisted upon us wasn’t worth the
teacher’s emphasis.

I wrote a poem for the school newspaper but
didn’t use my real name to not tip off the
faculty. It got in the paper, it was some sort
of concrete poem using the shape of steps
coming to an abyss to represent our

My first outside school norm influence was
Ginsburg’s Howl given to my by a member of
our state champion wrestling team. I went to
college in Milwaukee Wisconsin for several

half semesters, took two creative writing
classes, well one and a half as I was bodily
carried out of class by a body builder named
Texas Jack Gonyo who told me poetry can’t
exist in a classroom with no windows. He
brought me to the side of a river and began to
teach me Tai Chi and turned me onto Arthur
Whaley’s Translations from the Chinese.

In 1972 I published my first book of poems
Woof dem Babies Down on a literally
underground press called Babylon. Anti-war
protest stuff mixed in with travel tales of
crossing most of Canada on a bicycle and of
course the unrequited love poems.

Feminist poetry was the rage and I heard
Denise Levertov live and began peddling
small press radical feminist poetry books out
of the co-op where I worked. Some of the
lesbian poets didn’t know I was a male as my

nom de plume was not so gender specific and
when they came to town to read it made for
some awkward book sales. I left the Midwest
at the height of my local fame having pulled
in a 100 or more people to a hybrid
jazz/poetry show as the local poetry club
wouldn’t give me a gig.

I didn’t quit writing altogether but it was the
90’s before I got back on stage for an open
mic in Northern California. I was also
studying music and African Dance and
formed a spoken word band with a group of
multi-instrumentalists called Wiley Jadavega
and the Poetry Section because the local
Barnes & Noble didn’t have one.

We played coffee clubs and campus lounges
for a few years, put out a cassette, did a local
TV spot. Incidentally a poet who just last
year was a Pulitzer nominee was a fan of the

band. I put out two chapbooks during the
decade but the band folded and I again
didn’t quite quit writing to study saxophone.

To be blunt I didn’t have much use for
poetry. If I came across a literary journal I’d
page through it and scratch my head at the
obtuse language. Poetry slams and rap styles
left me in the dust as I couldn’t memorize or
freestyle so I took fiction courses on line,
finished a novel, came in 12 th out of 200 in a
contest and, you guessed it, set it all aside to
study saxophone.

I’ve always worked, always been a blue collar
street level sort of poet and around 1995 I got
sober, re-married, and began writing faith
and praise poems in what I imagined was a
born again griot style. I called the band out
of retirement to record a CD Bring to Glory

which is available on Spotify, iTunes, and my

I published a collection of personal
psalmistry entitled Head Lines Poems &
Provocations in an effort to rescue faith
based literature from right wing propaganda.
I got a Kirkus Review, had an ad in
Poets&Writers and sold a handfull of signed
copies before the pandemic.

I got on Twitter to promote the book and CD
and found a new world on online publishing
such as Fevers of the Mind. I’m writing more
‘secular’ stuff nowadays to use a word I
would never use and have a new EP coming
out later this year to be a poetic/music
companion to a book of interviews I just
signed a contract for entitled Bumping into
God A Search for the Sound of Spirit.

I was recently excused from my first ever
poetry workshop (and issued a full refund!)
as I am apparently a horse’s ass of a different
color. The highest compliment I’ve ever
received is from folks who tell me they’re not
into poetry but they read one of mine out
loud to their spouse at the kitchen table
through tears. Not sure I’ll ever top that but
aim to have some sort of reputable press
discover me as I enter my fifth decade of
emerging as a poet.

Please take some time to check out my
poems, tunes and essays on my website

here’s something from a recent piece…

Six Strings Untie the Knot

I repair your guitar in a
bath of broken glass, these
are the new blues, frozen
specimens, blood tipped
tiles and footprints disappear
outside a window

Thank you for your interest I am looking for
my tribe and Like The Beatles I hope to pass
the audition. Be well, be vocal, be kind.

Bio: Poetry driven Spirit with saxophonic passion author Head Lines Poems and Provocations. schmitbooks.com

2 Poems by Will Schmit in Fevers of the Mind Press Presents the Poets of 2020

grayscale photo of a bridge

A Live Stream Pauses for A Low Bridge

I'll remember
to put your words
on paper, same
lines, same lengths.
If you skip
a beat, or a 
vowel, I'll be
I've just learned
you pushed a forest
down the block,
lit the city with your shirt.

A silver chair,
with missing slats,
supports a Brazilian
drumming a box
Coffee is poured
at an infectious rate,
blank pages await
the next wind.
Windows are missing
in the van, cardboard
curtains block
a street light.

It reads better
with music,
your proposal
our prayer.
The bald head
of the drummer
glides in the light
like a white crane.
Singing fills
the water glass,
stalls the recognition
of closing time.

The fold in the book
hides a moth,
reading at night
ages a child.
Empathy sounds
scientific, measures
the flagging
against the parade.
I clean my glasses
on my sleeve, don't
remember how long
the blood's been drying.

Optical Options Require a New Light

We have entered the days of astonishment.
The sidewalks widen to allow
passing smiles in protective masks.

The fear of breathing touches
a nerve, makes a dance
of simple tasks.

Hope is a super glue,
the jagged comes clean,
holds together.

Clean hands make a small
music of soap and water,
harmony is a health plan.

We learn flat lines begin
every curve and follow
the curse of events.

The safety in numbers
is divided by six feet, 
above, and below, the ground.

Bio: Poetry driven Spirit with saxophonic passion author Head Lines Poems and Provocations.  schmitbooks.com 

Poem by Will Schmit : Appointment Books Fail to Guarantee

Bed, Room, Interior, Window, Office

Appointment Books Fail to Guarantee

The morning’s cold begs foot warmth to cover
it, to cover it all before working, before walking
to dance in a slivered light from bleak curtains
and the music of a missing breath.

The hospice news a day late, a day too
early leaves the phone cord a dangle
the air precious, precise, and rare.
The name sounded. Alone.

Cancer ends the night alike
dawn a mere golden gray
a gown of clouds lifts aloud
a silent forever rest.

In the wake of peace; mass
shootings, virus spikes, rocket bombs,
twisted cars and falling cliffs
this body in bed blessed.

The break is fast once the wait
lessens. The telling and retelling
pace the hall, just outside
the door, is another

as if every day has a mother
and every mother a day
with her own. A day with
and this day without. 

Bio: Poetry driven Spirit with saxophonic passion author Head Lines Poems and Provocations.  schmitbooks.com 

Wednesday with Will Schmit : A Blog Entry about learning Culture and Diversity

I met my first Black person during my senior year in high school. There were no people of color in my town, unless you counted itinerant workers and I don’t think we did. As I was not included in the class field trip to Jonesboro Arkansas I went on my own. Our Greyhound bus pulled into Effingham Illinois in the dead of a December night. 1969. The driver encouraged us to get snacks and use the bathroom in a now or never sort of voice. My long hair and gold striped bell bottoms set me apart from the other travelers, not that there was a large contingent heading to Memphis in mid-winter. 

A young man in a black beret and leather jacket walked into the shadows away from the bus station and motioned me to follow him.

 “You holdin’ ?”  he asked.

“Nah, nothing on me.”

He pulled a pin roll from behind his ear and fired it up, offered me a hit after he took a quick pull. Skinniest joint I had ever seen. He explained his people couldn’t afford to get too high. Had to stay alert. Police. Black Panther. Chicago life. We didn’t say more to each other back on the bus. Sat where we sat before.

My next encounter was in college. Social studies. The teacher’s assistant wore a professor style sport jacket and an Afro. I don’t remember the context of the class. It may have been related to multi-culturalism or whatever we called it in the 70’s. I was a new jazz enthusiast and was considering a paper about music as an identity marker. I somehow mentioned my bus ride and the TA suggested I write about that, about the difference of getting high as a white or black person. I got an A in the class for supplying him with top grade weed and as research he brought some friends over to my crib to smoke it. I was quick to mimic just enough lingo to pass for being hip, or so I hoped.

Hip was all I saw. Miles, Hendrix, Marley. Poverty, malnutrition, the war, all the underbelly of the beast began to seep through my purple haze. My political education gradually gained some perspective through rap sessions and poetry readings. After dropping out of college and not quite passing an audition for the local music conservatory I joined the counter-culture as a neighborhood food co-op employee and came up against racism in my bid to provide nutrition classes to the ghetto grade school just across the bridge from our store. Seemed weird a bunch of hippies didn’t want ‘too many’ black people shopping, or shop lifting as was inferred, at the community co-op.

I didn’t fight tooth and nail for my idea, but I did write an adventure book for young readers that included some healthy recipes and shared it in an after school reading program. Smoothies proved to be a little too much of a stretch for teen age cuisine so the only upshot of the class was my promise to never breakdance in public. The  other relationship, or should I say exposure to black culture I can recall was taking conga lessons in the park on Saturdays and doing some poetry readings at political rallies. It would be another twenty years until I broke bread, well biscuits, with a black family. Getting sober in the mid 90’s led my new bride and I to join a small racially diverse church and that meant cook outs, Gospel choir, and peculiar to the House of Refuge, a prison ministry at San Quentin State Prison.

Token Caucazoid was a sort of tongue in cheek description of us following our Pastor into prison chapel for the next five years. I began to learn incarceration was a family stressing reality of staggering proportion. I kept up with volunteering in prison chapels until Covid 19 put the kabosh on that avenue of connection. Church life did bring me to Africa twice and through childhood friends of my bride Jamaica became a preferred destination of ours, it will be hard to top a Full Moon on Valentine’s Day listening to Toots and the Maytals give a beachfront concert.

The point I’m meandering toward is that Black Lives matter more when real relationships are friendly, familial, and fun. Truly the hard work of replacing racism with compassionate political and personal solutions is made more tangible when its someone we know benefiting from connection or suffering from the oppressive lack of it. It’s not my place to suggest being polite and culturally curious is enough to achieve racial harmony, but it certainly is some part of the framework. I live in the boonies of Northern California, think redwoods, beaches, and a booming agriculture. The local university does bring in some diversity in the form of international students but for the most part, except for entertainment and sports, the local scene is pretty homogenous.

To keep my finger somewhat on the pulse of cultural creativity I scroll through my Twitter feed to find poets and political activists and when I can buy a book of poetry (Jericho Brown, Matthew E Henry, Tianna Clark, Quintin Collins and Khalisa Rae all made this year’s Poetry Month a marathon of fabulous!) or donate to a cause. All you can do is all you can do, but all you can do is enough. A football coach taught me that years ago and it does age pretty well.

 I wanted my first blog for Fevers of the Mind to be encouraging and perhaps spark some conversation. I’m pushing 70 years old and I can count my friends, black and white, on one hand and I hope they can count on me to carry some weight. It’s the other in brother that makes life interesting. A poet said that. I say a lot of things but it is the listening that gets things across.

Bio: Poetry driven Spirit with saxophonic passion author Head Lines Poems and Provocations. schmitbooks.com

%d bloggers like this: