LeighAnna Schesser | Empathy


It’s easier to start with what’s not true.
The truth is harder because,
even when objective, is no object, defies correlatives.
Mountains in the mind remain
unthawed by summer days –
some high countries never clear from haze.

But, perhaps, like other fictions,
(dreams, poems, winter evenings)
these lies, too, will add up
to something worth believing,

To taste about for human dark
and seek for sugar, melting hot.
To look for my own dark sea,
interior, eagle-lighted.
Though French remains beyond me,
and its poets–well, I’m trapped
beyond their burning, moonlight reach.

God, I miss the snow. I want to fold
its smooth, blue, midnight sheen,
as under moons, into my skin.
Not unlike Louise, who bound
her poems at the wrists
and drove snow’s blinding sheets,
so many nails, into their hands and feet.

Brenda threw out the word snow, scrubbed
its footprints from her tongue, so I snatched
it up, because sometimes I still can’t tell
the difference between fear and pleasure, because
I desire to be gloveless, because I thrill
to the sick plunge of temperature meeting
hot blood, tingling pulse in throbbing thumbs.


We all burn, beneath the snow.

Even God burns with us,
buried under, like grass bent
beneath the sleeping storm.
How long until one of us will say,
hey, we’re not the only ones in pain.


Once, a seraph came to me, and at arm’s length
he held a live coal, taken with tongs from the altar,
because not even poets, not even muses of poets,
may touch the living word and see;
not even Moses saw the face of God and lived.
And he touched my mouth with the slow, slick flame,
and said: Behold, this hath touched thy lips,
and thy iniquities shall be branded away,
and you, pitiful fortunate, will prophesy.

And I saw that it had burnt my mouth open, dark open,
and I tasted the goodness of the Lord.

And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying,
Who shall sing for me? Someone, sing;
sing me, someone, something.

And I heard my own voice, saying, Here am I, Lord, but
I do not know the song. And lo, the voice of the Lord said


Prophecy: the beginnings of uncreated things, the endings of creation.
The bitter coal and the burning scroll, honeyed mouth and bitter belly,
and the weight of the snow that banks it, blankets, blows.
The dark and unendurable blood. Sing.


What colors soak best into snow? Ochre, moonlight?
Darkening pink? Which snow soaks best into
skin? Snow you grieve through, snow erasing
stars, snow that follows you home?

When I have been cold long enough I will not remember
anymore if there is a difference between blood and snow.

When I dream of Rilke, he tells me, be
a tree in the snow. And then I am the tree
the carpenter nailed to, I am the flame of the sun
that goes out.


It’s taken all week to get this far, to say this much.
But here I am, at a truth: Thursdays are Luminous,
filled with hazy visions. I chant water, wedding, kingdom;
remain bound at the wrists by wooden promises
and prophecies; chant light, body, blood; and the
scent of wood, cold like midnight, dry, waiting to burn.

And it is not enough, of course, but it is
the act of the poem, the mind in the prayer
of finding, the act of the prayer deciding, the hope
of the prayer in the breath of the mind becoming.

To be is to be a becoming, beloved. “And though
what’s made does not abide,” we live. We live.


LeighAnna Schesser is the author of Heartland (Anchor & Plume Press, 2016.) Her poems have appeared in Peacock Journal, Whale Road Review, Mothers Always Write, Ekphrastic, Rose Red Review, Kindred, Synaesthesia Magazine, Verse-Virtual, and Transcendence Magazine. She earned her M.F.A. at North Carolina State University. LeighAnna lives in Kansas with her family and blogs at leighannaschesser.wordpress.com