Photo: Norton Wheeler  
The poems in Elizabeth Schultz’s most recent collection, The Quickening, take us from the tribulations and terrors of the poet’s early years through a series of losses that call forth her powers of empathy, finally arriving at “gusts and expectations of rapture.” This is indeed the record of a quickening. Phyllis Beck Katz writes, “Schultz’s poems pulse with feeling, moving from the dark disturbances of youth to the light that comes with experience and acceptance. They are colored by close observations, and by language that both suits and surprises. In ‘The Written Air,’ she writes, ‘I try to press / my ear against the air, / to listen for messages.... / Flung flaming in the sunset, / or swallowed by clouds are / the words that might save us.’ The Quickening beautifully articulates this possibility.” And this from Alice Wolf Gilborn: “The title of Elizabeth Schultz’s latest book of poetry, The Quickening, is aptly chosen. ‘It is the beginning / of time and desire,’ she writes in the first poem and, at the end, in the title poem, ‘Let photosynthesis begin.’ Throughout this volume there is a beginning, a quickening—the growing child is awakened to life just as the adult poet is roused by the natural world.
  Front cover photo: Rennie McQuilkin
Unsentimental, Elizabeth Schultz is not afraid to face the painful realities of her own growth from childhood desire to mature perception. Her poems suggest the continuing passage of time: earth unfolds in spring, plants absorb the light, life ends, only to begin again in memory. Nothing is predictable about these poems; they are both vividly concrete and universal. Reading them is truly a surprise and a delight.”

Teacher, scholar, poet, and sailor, Elizabeth Schultz has sailed the seven seas. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas, following retirement from the English Department of the University of Kansas, where she was Chancellor’s Club Teaching Professor. She remains committed to writing about the people and the places she loves, which include Herman Melville, her mother and her friends, Kansas wetlands and prairies, Michigan’s Higgins Lake, Japan (where she lived for six years), and oceans everywhere. She has published two scholarly books, three books of poetry, a memoir, a collection of short stories and another of essays. Her work continues to appear in numerous journals and reviews. Elizabeth Schultz is a dedicated advocate for the arts and the environment.

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ISBN 978-1-936482-72-6

Copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Schultz

5.5" x 8.5" paperback, 36 pages


copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Schultz



You two were both so gorgeous,
patent-leathered, toe-tapping,
a dahlia over Mama’s ear,
a carnation in Papa’s lapel.
Holding each other’s hands,
you showed me the shuffle,
one, two, Chattanooga-shoe,
you were one+one=one,
and I remember wrapping
myself around your collective
knees, but I couldn’t cut it,
as you kept tipping your twin
top hats to invisible audiences
and kept dancing all over
that apartment, and when I saw
you only had eyes for you,
I dissolved myself, posing
in perfect wistfulness by the door,
which I do still, counting time,
musing that someone, even
the postman, would see me
and take me home at last.



Tea steeping in the old pot
and a plate of biscotti.
Late afternoon and dusk
settling into the shrubs
outside the bay window and
behind the sofa. In this ritual
of small gestures—pouring,
sipping, crunching, we are
safe to venture beyond
the weather, the worn news.
We approach blood-letting,
the gnawing and shivering,
the violation behind lilac bushes.
Shadows thicken, and I move
to turn on the lights.


For Ayako Matsui

Crossing continent, ocean,
time zone, I arrived breathless
in the labyrinthine city.
The raging sun was slipping
over the edge of darkness,
as I reached for you.

Lying snared in medical
contrivances, surrounded
by amulets of hope and love,
you were already escaping,
breathing deeply, eyes closed.

The complacent moon
displaced the sun. Squared
by the hospital window,
it was silent as you gave up
the ghost into its perfect sphere.

Now, years later,
in other lands, bracketed
by any pane, this moon
gives you up to me.


She disconnects the Security,
removes bolts from the doors,
cracks the windows, leaving
plenty of room for night to enter.

Wide-eyed, she watches a train
tunnel through the room, vanish
into the closet, whistle ricocheting
against the walls. Later, lightning
flashing through the blinds, slamming
shadows across the ceiling, shakes
her awake. Night rattles everything

until it sinks into itself, goes still,
steeping, sinking, its shadows
lapping against her.
She puts her ear against dreams,
and trusting night, lets strangers
enter and stretch out alongside her.


Our bodies are earth.

Our eyes may be sky-blue,
or brackish as woodland
pools, our ears opercula,
our blood briny. We are
mottled, pebbled landscapes,
with thickets of hair and
deltas of veins. Our brows
are beetled, our snouts craggy.
Our butts are buttes, and all
of us have caves and cracks.
We sprout cysts and scabs.
Our suppurating springs crust
over, our rivers flood their banks.
We have eruptions volcanic.

We are as polluted as the planet,
strong, lovely, fecund.


No sudden throwing off the blanket
and leaping out into the day, spring
seems tentative, a tulip at a time,

comes like dreams, spilling over
into sleep, rouses me with images
surprising, yet familiar as a hand,

represses the swelling magnolia,
the frowzy wild plum, concentrates
the redbud into hard, bright knots,

so contrary, weighted with clouds,
weighted with rain, sloshes earth
and riff raff so boisterously down drains,

sets me loose outside the house
into gusts and expectations of rapture
I thought I’d reduced to recordings,

teases with memories of the way
her hair whispered across my face
as we lay among summer grasses,

taunts my long winter on every street
and bough with ruddy bulges, soft petals.

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