Dreaming of Margaret

There are no ghosts for me to fear.
When you arrive here, mid-dream, post-
midnight, you appear whole and rested,
your mind ready and quick as ever.
We get on with things.

You are dressed in our favorite shade
of purple–you were the only grown-up
who dared love such color in my Seventies
childhood of mustard and green. I wanted
to be just like you: confident enough
of what I could do to do it.

Tonight, you must be near, reminding
me of things I have forgotten.
Just one more time, we stand side
by side and cheer our candidates
and make poor jokes. We walk
arm in arm, to New York City

and a theatre. Your diamond smile,
your perfect hair. The best day
I’ve had all year. Then the dog

barks and the sun snaps
through the blinds. To find
you, I see, I need only
close my eyes.


on a wing and a prayer, 1

Balance of Power in the Pharmacy

I meet a boy who carries a notebook in his breast pocket.
“That’s quite a weapon,” I tease, pointing to the blue stain
spreading across his lab coat. He is a man, but so clean-shaven
and slim, he seems young enough to be a child.
High school job, I think, or between classes.
We wait for my pain pills, which the pharmacist measures
so slowly, he could be using coffeespoons.
His lilting accent assures me I will be relieved.
We are close to done, he says, counting pills.

We are far from it.

The man-child says he is two years
past the Navy, where he worked on ships that lined
the suffering shores of the world, witness to the worst
humans could visit on the living.

He tells me his thoughts move faster
than debris in a hurricane, and he gathers them
in the notebook, trying to piece
his life together again. If only he could collect
them all in one place, put a lid on them,
bury them deep, and move on.
Then, he says, he might find sense
in this incomprehensible place.

What is poetry that does not save nations
but souls? The kid mentions that he is a lefty,
able to spot four-leaf clovers in fields of grass and weeds.
He collects them in his wallet.

Life shoots dreams down. To him, I am one more old woman
with pain pills and worry and grey temples and belly fat.
I want to hold his smooth young hand in mine
and tell him how little we know but this:

words, gathered like storm clouds
on a horizon can unleash a torrent
that changes the landscape of this world.
What’s in his mind, he says, he cannot see.
But it is there, and ready.
He did not sail so many seas, he promises,
for his voice to be lost in the wind.

key words: Janice Lynch Schuster, veterans, dreams, writing, creativity, poetry

A Future So Bright: C4 Blogathon, Day 4

I’m great at lists, not so great at goal-setting. So goal-setting for my writing is a challenge,
but here goes.

1. Five goals to achieve w/in next ten years (personal or professional)

  • Find a regular, paying outlet for creative non-fiction essay
  • Write a few non-fiction books on extraordinary women, first Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, then Sofya Kovalevsky
  • Devote more time, in a more concentrated way, to reclaim the joy of being creative person
  • Get out of debt and get my kids through college
  • Visit some places that I love, and some that I daydream about

2. Now, five goals that need to be achieved in short-term to make these a reality

  • Engage more with writers in my virtual and real-time communities and attend readings and submit work to journals I admire
  • Investigate and understand the process of writing biography, develop book proposals, and pitch
  • Concentrate on centering happiness within myself, not seeking it from validation or support from Erik who cannot provide it
  • Save money, and establish and adhere to budget

3. Now, five goals, this year

  • Write the book proposal and participate in pitchfests I have registered for
  • Connect with people who are skilled in writing nonfiction and learn from them (especially an expert on this, Walter Isaacson)
  • Continue to follow steps to pay down debt, which I insituted this year
  • Continue to work on strategies to address chronic physical pain, and spiritual pain
  • Keep arranging small road trips, either solo or with family, that energize me

Writing these down makes me feel anxious–but I have a good friend who often tells me to put ideas into the universe, that this stating of intentions is the first step to making them a reality. As for a photo, I will insert one from today. This time last year, I thought I was on my last-ever ski trip, due to arthritis and finances. But I am on new meds that make the knees not so bad, and I found a great deal. In this photo, I am on top of a mountain, with the whole world spread out before me. I am not anxious, and nothing is holding me back.


Janice on the mountaintop


In the Deep Heart of the Night

–…we let loose of everything
–Bruce Springsteen

One breathless night                         he whispers

Should I be afraid?

Aren’t we all,

Spinning through the black               of dreams

Unaware of what might land next

A derecho or a fire

A war outside                          raging within.

Earth sheds us      before we know

Who we are.                             I am holding on

So hard                my hands hurt.

They burn.                     So do we.

Breathe on them, baby,           while we can.


key words:  Bruce Springsteen, night, dreams, fear