Today's poetry for today's world

Penelope Scambly Schott


Penelope Scambly Schott has published a novel, five chapbooks, and ten full-length poetry books.  Her verse biography A is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Common-wealth was awarded the Oregon Book Award for Poetry in 2008.  She grades papers, hikes, paints, and spoils her family.
To buy How I Became an Historian click on the cover.

Hammer a shaped rock against a red rock.

Grind the red rock into powdered ochre.

Wrap the ground ochre in a scrap of hide.

Push a gnarled root into the sacred fire.

Now carry your burning root upright.

Find a hollow straw and bring it with you.

Duck as you walk through the mouth of the cave.

Slip through the narrow passage into the third room.

Spread your open hand on the cool wall of the cave.

Keep your wall hand perfectly still.

Now suck red powder up into the straw.

Blow gently around the edges of your hand.

Repeat as needed.

Wait for approximately forty thousand years.

Someone will come with a flashlight.

She will press her hand into the red outline of your hand

      and it will fit.

Know how recklessly she will love you.
Published in The Oregonian
How I Became an Historian,
Cherry Grove Collections, 2014
To buy Lovesong for Dufur click on the cover.








After I switch off the bedside light,

a housefly sleeps on the warm bulb.


I like these clean sheets.  The quilt

heaps itself over my shoulders.


My dog shoves her lumpy backbone

into my belly.  She snores sotto voce 


much like my husband who isn't here.

My fingers close and open.  Goodnight,


husband; goodnight, dog.  Nobody

is as lucky as a woman in love.




Published in Lovesong for Dufur, Windfall Press, 2013.                




To buy Crow Mercies click on the book cover.  










I will go to the place that stands motionless

inside the middle of a minute.


I will live in that place that tumbles with stars

over the embracing roof of the dark


where I confuse your soft breathing

with wind brushing the Douglas Firs.


Long after our moment has ended,

anniversaries of our marriage


could flourish like early salmonberries

by a June trail.  I want to believe in love


so bright, so frequent, so delicious,

it ought to be eaten by birds.




from Crow Mercies, Calyx Press    




To buy Six Lips click on the book cover.









I grow great with her decline.  When shall I be delivered?

I'll be there tomorrow, I say on the phone.  She's amazed

when I arrive.  Have you met my aide?  she asks politely,

the same kind aide she's had for months. 


She remembers to worry, Do you need more blankets?

Her radio loud in the airless house, the oxygen machine

humming and spitting as she curls on a waterproof pad.

Oooh, she moans in her sleep, Ooh, I'm sorry.  Ooooh,


thank you.   I love you.  I'm sorry.  I love you.  Ooooh.

I wake her.  A gradual smile blooms.  I'm embarrassed,

she laughs, to be such a bag of bones.  Her shrunken

skeleton kicks at my heart and inside my belly.


I'm the luckiest woman in the world, she tells me again, 

I'm the luckiest woman in the world.  Or else she says,

I'm the loveliest woman in the world, and doesn't notice

any difference.  She touches my cheek.          


This is something new in our shared lives, how she turns

so gentle.  I labor hard with her.  Forgiveness loosens

my stubborn bones.  I am swollen with her love for me.

When shall I be delivered?




from Six Lips, Mayapple Press, 2009




To buy Under Toas Mountain: The Terrible Quarrel

of Magpie and Tia click on the book cover.  









A brilliant globule of blood

rolled out over the surface of the desert

up and down the Continental Divide

through the singing prairies

parting the Mississippi

leaping the Delaware Water Gap

until it spilled into this tall red kitchen

in Rocky Hill, New Jersey

where it skittered across the linoleum

and cracked into hundreds of little faceted jewels.


I will not diminish this day with labeling

I will not say foolishly

now you are a woman

I will never tell you

don't talk to strangers


because we are each of us strangers

one to another

mysterious in our bodies,

the connections between us

ascending like separate stone wells

from the same dark waters

under the earth


But tonight you delight me like a lover

so that my thigh muscles twitch

and the nipples of my breasts

rise and remember

your small mouth


until I am laughing to the marrow of my bones

and I want to shout

Bless you, my daughter, bless you, bless you;

I have created the world in thirteen years

and it is good.




from The Perfect Mother, originally published in Ms. Magazine




To buy A is for Anne click on the book cover.








The most gripping movie I ever saw

was time-lapse film of fruit in a dish,

all that tender ripeness caving in

on itself: the collapse of is into was. 


When I glimpse my face in a mirror,

I remember a chipped colander

mounded with yellow cherries,

some rotting and some just dried. 


Remarkable, all remarkable,

like this loose pebble in my palm,

its sparkle of mica, speck of lichen

thinking of nothing but cling, cling.


My fists are clusters of blossoms,

and inside them, the stone knuckles

with whatever of flesh will adhere,

adhering.  Yes, I am old enough


to discuss April with a certain

earned authority: how pale petals

on the cherry tree guess nothing

about the hard pit.




from Baiting the Void, originally published

in The Georgia Review



To buy Baiting the Void click on the book cover. 




Writers Tip: I always compose on yellow paper because then I know for sure it's just a draft and I can try anything at all, no matter how outrageous.



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