April 19, 2017 Poem: “Portrait of a Street Musician”

 Portrait of a Street Musician
(Paris, March 22, 2009)

I asked an expert,
later, what instrument
this musician played.

“I’ve never seen the like,”
he shrugged. “I think
it must be homemade.”

Jet-lagged, I stood
in grey Paris
among the fruit stands.

I was holding unfamiliar
coins and my camera
in my hands

when I heard a faint
strain, a light air,
a thin ribbon of sound

that I followed,
to this spot, where
it wound and unwound.

I cannot recall
the names of the notes,
their order,

just that I lifted
my lens, questioning
across the border

between us. He
nodded, clenched his jaw.
The camera whirred—

a tiny percussive sound,
like a twig snapped by
the weight of a bird—

and, as my young
daughter danced
over, how sun burned

on those coins we
offered; how he
smiled in return.

Leslie Schultz

The idea for this poem came when I was looking this morning at a catalog for the Milwaulkee Art Institute. I opened the volume at random and read, under a reproduction of his Fauve painting titled “The Wheat Field” (circa 1906), of a French painter, Maurice Vlaminck, who “was a self-taught artist who began painting purely for pleasure, while supporting himself financially by playing the violin.” That sentence made me remember this moment eight years ago–the grey light and the grey stone of the French market on a Sunday in Paris. All these years later, and I hope his playing brings him joy as well as coins. When I look at the craftsmanship of his unnameable stringed instrument, I think it must.


Check out other participants at the NaPoWriMo Challenge 2017 home site!

Poem in Process: #10–April 10, 2016

Number 10

Where I Live

My grandmother had a silver teapot.
It grew black inside and out,
So she had it dipped in a bubbling vat
Of chrome, from base to spout.

It never needed polish then
Or any special tender care,
And she could spend a lot more time
Combing and combing her brittling hair.

One cannot tend to everything.
I know I have to pick and choose
Among the things with shine I love
And those I’ll really use.

But magpie words! Those ones I hoard,
The ones I find and love the best,
I’ll use their gleam and chainmail strength
To weave a place to live: this nest.

Leslie Schultz

This kind of poetic structure, the simple ABCB quatrain, is the first form I used when I started writing poetry at age eight, although I believe that the first form I encountered was the couplet. Remember this?

“In an old house in Paris, that was covered in vines,
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.”

They are, of course, the immortal opening lines to Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, 1939. I probably feel about them the way ancient Greeks felt about Homer’s opening lines in the Iliad. Instantly, their incantatory quality summons me to a different place, a hyper-real place of story, a realm where the littlest person is fearless, kind, strong, and brave.

Today I am thinking of the of how my life is built of words as much as out of material substances like molecules of air or water or food. I am also watching the intent activity of birds in our back garden–robins, wrens, crows, and swallows–as they seek material to build their nests, singing or scolding or advising the entire time.

Some words I am enchanted with at the moment, for no particular reason:

I would enjoy knowing if you have any current favorite words at the moment–and, if so, do you simply savor them or do you find them useful?

Until tomorrow!


The Paradoxical Glories of Yellow; Poem “Juicy”



Lately, I have been preoccupied by the color yellow in all its shades and names: butter, champagne, dandelion, sulphur, oat straw, yolk (cooked, whole, and broken), cut honeycomb, pollen, sandstone, dune, parchment, lamplight, amber, topaz, cream, ocher, gold, marigold, wheat, lemon, hay, neon, lemon and lemonade, corn and cornsilk.


Yellow and I have an unquiet relationship, oscillating between attraction and repulsion.  It isn’t a color that has ever been flattering for me to wear–it makes me look rather sickly–but one grey February, about ten years ago, I was drawn to a swingy, yellow coat of bouclé wool at a vintage shop. It had three textured yellow buttons the size of silver dollars. Every where I went, people noticed. I felt I carried the sun with me.


Until the day I put it on and felt like Big Bird!  I no longer own that coat, but I do hope it makes someone else happy.

Wedding III




In the Feng Shui baqua, the nine-square grid used in the Chinese art of placement, the central square, the one that stands for health, is yellow. Certainly in this grey time of year, the merest ray of yellow sunlight makes me understand the poetry of this traditional assignment. And yet, yellow also can indicate ill-health or age. Think of jaundice, yellowing of white linens or lace, yellowed ivory, teeth, or pages. Yellowed with Age

(Above, Mr. Robert Nichols, the archivist at the American Swedish Institute, is holding open a nineteenth-century diary to show Julia.)


Yellow Rainbow

Given yellow’s central position in the spectrum of visible light, it makes sense that, in addition to its pure form, it slides easily into the realms of tan, white, green, and orange.










Yellow Abstract

Lemon Yellow Magnolia Two 2014







Whether natural or artificial, yellow commands attention–from daffodils, sunflowers, autumn leaves, and sunlight to highlighters, Post-It Notes, school buses, police tape, traffic signs and road lines. On this snowy day, I appreciate the chance to share these favorite photographs starring YELLOW  as well as a poem inspired by a photo with contrasting natural and artificial hues.





Ducks on the River







After Labor Day, at the tail end of summer,
a yearly festival transforms
Bridge Square, that triangular wedge
of green that marks the heart of town.
For two days it becomes a warren
of food carts, bingo tents, even
a beer garden whose sour smell
mingles with corn dogs, tortillas, spun sugar.

Now, nearly tripping on the thick, black cables
snaking over the crosswalk, I stop,
longing suddenly for lemonade.
I pay
the man in the black shirt.
He takes dimpled fruit, pointed at both ends
like petite footballs, the shape
of things to come, certain as frost.

While he squeezes and gazes
at the river sliding past, my own gaze wanders.
I rock on my heels, am jolted
by yellow shafts, long fluorescent tubes
on the cart’s black ceiling, colliding,
in my eye, with a vertical column
of waxy lemons clustered in tiered baskets.

Two lines of yellow converge –
the tip of an arrow,
the zig of lightening – all
on a clear day, signifying (perhaps)
danger, direction, or simply illumination,
the thrill that can rush upon the heart
from a simple shift in perspective.

The man in the black shirt
hands me a paper cup, tips his black cap.
As I lean in to receive it,
the yellow lines diverge.
Behind me the queue surges.
I turn
toward the bridge, walk to the middle,
sip sweetness released from a wheel
of luminous pulp bound by bitter peel.

Leslie Schultz


Wishing you well, 

Sig Leslie in Yellow