Poetry & Art Sequence: “Big Enough to Step Inside” by Xan Schwartz


Gemini Rising/Poem for Nellie

It was your birthday and I
knew you and                                                              I didn’t

know you.  Your skin was                                                                       glowing
like a cloud

You were surviving
to the tune of
light beer
to the tune of
raspberries and a
couple of cows
to the
tune of
Joan of Arc’s head tilt
You were singing loudly
in a way I had never heard

you sing
You were
waving your arms

inciting crowds. You


were behind your

eyes and

you weren’t
of herb gardens
Speckled and frizz, you

were squinting your eyes

and slanting your lips

No, that was another day

This was your birthday and



poem for celia

fuzzy telephone person
i’d bless you if your body
weren’t round the clock in pain—
it makes me unable to relate

enter: two unhappy all-
passing by most marks

your pain: grief in a shiny black
chrysler with a fat square
grill. you don’t like to talk about it
you tell me, but you can

my pain: mom throws me
under a bus, fingers swell
eye black to go sledding
i ride an upright chariot

into the space surrounding my body
like i have never learned to before
our pain: i need to get on medication
& you need to get off

gum up chocolate on our
front teeth to laugh. a space big
enough to step inside of
my pain: i need to trust

the man i don’t trust, i tell you over and
over. benadryl for bee sting, i thought
i would hallucinate the day you left
corn maze in bowling green

ohio, speaking out memories of
childhood to gain ground in mom’s
jeep liberty. you draw a solidarity fist
in your sorority house, i take course

called “black feminist thought” but
have no black friends. your parents
bought you a black baby doll
a lacey shirt and onyx bra

first love, nylon tent, white bread
sandwich. i am possessive
i am your best friend. camel
filter daisy, teal shadow

dirty toe. black, white & red on
a belle. you cajole to perk
from a different state. my prom date
my sister, my voicemail box

cannot receive new
messages at this time
my pain: smiles under a
lampshade, knuckles inflamed


hook peeking out from inside
nose. you paint my room while
i’m stuck in some amber
you paint me healthy in a stony

blue box. remember how sometimes
you got purple feet?
my pain: dawn feeds
tomato soup

but it mutates to suffering
your pain: not just physical
not foot but coccyx
not sex but fear

obsidian, carnelian
shunghite in matrix
more primitive maybe
even than language

your pain: for which silver
lining is alive. pocket buddha
static, angel-haired and high
your pain: hides from me

in health
and in sickness
meditation, axis, omen
our pain: we can love with


Soft Skillz

I search “socialism vs. communism”
find, yes indeed, they are saltine

crackers, insisting on intuitive knowledge
suddenly aware of feelings

“Sorry,” you click computer game
So I pull my heels towards my back

Spine goes slack, ah
Magnets fall apart

I wash my face of this coupling, this
knowledge and assumption

in bed. Immanuel Kant loves Google
I bet. You slide in beside me, poor sitting

duck, ask me “what?” I chafe
you up good, answer violence, half

an apple. I identify as devil Tuesdays
my emotional intelligence, starlit

self-hate. Oh, too bad. It really is
so sad. To be gas lit by your own back pages


I, I, I, I, I, I

ate three bedtimes
cow tipped the hoo-ha
head circled energy line
looking for a straight answer

Goth pop, sarcasm, motivational
quotes—things could be worse:
I eat shit from the apple orchard
shit pies out the dog walker, cram

bees up my busy body, horror
as my calming agent
Kitchen knife and
a glass of water—I could do

something with it. Call out a pull,
snap my Xanax in half
as a cheerleader for a
small band of snails

My boyfriend is a
hairy train wreck
“It’s amazing you’re open, you
anomaly, you fruit fly.” A

baby and elders
Waves and elbows. Berries.
I hate to say the horse jumped
over the cattle

I really hate the tone of their eyes
What, then, shall I be proud of?
I hate to be funny, hate promises
Fat rolling China through my fingers



Naples Years

Don’t      you                    touch to click

on                        Land  belongs  to  no   one                Butter  all  around  my  necessity

to forget         Jaw crickets                  fluorescent               Sunshine rising thru the

carpet               loaded  shoe of my         apocalypse               it’s my job to keep the peace

Shotgun  alligator riding through the storm         yelling     FLORIDA is for LOVERS                 where

boys wrestle in full suits        Canine               teeth    masked          in low level swim

pools            I’m           waving  my  bobble  hips          chewing                                             dust


and                                                    sand


As if

Applesauce for the new trifecta
Back of the fridgerator all over my bomb
Crab colored fissure all over my lip smac
Damn that halter absented
Every crème crème brûlée
Forget the face, cut to the jump off
Get douche bag
Hamburger oh
Inside a basement cicisbei
Jelly all over my infj j
Knock when yr teeth crack
Loopy, blue, arty, full
My Myspace space theorem: I am
Negligee for the never mornin
On top are the letters, no
Point but a bee bop
Quarantined from my uniq
Raiding bread stick cafeteria corner
Slushee like raspberry like blue cherry angels
Titties like pubert
Up my Abercrombie beau
Vicious like my Smirnov
Winking from the bottom, shallow
Xan girl on top of the zerox
You fuzzy gynecology
Zilching at my schnozz

Xan Schwartz is a second-year MFA student at Cleveland State University. She spends her time listening to Joanna Newsom and tutoring fellow students at the Cleveland State Writing Center. Her poetry has been published in The Periphery magazine.

Images: Xan Schwartz

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