When words weave wonder
Pen meets paper as ink spills. Tightly coiled spirals of loose-leaf fibers float. Muddy puddles of
blue, black, and red threads form a tapestry of raw wounds, woven of half-truths, mirror images,
and dreams uttered. Barely audible. Fingers trace rows of eight-point font in paper volumes
delivered weekly. The cart would invariably announce its presence long before my eyes could
scan its titles. No matter, volumes of words would rise as paper bound volumes met new forms
of consumption. Alarms, lock downs, and prohibitions on privileges lurk in darkened corners and
in the small pockets of air between us and them. I’d consume greedily, then produce a new batch
of words for further consumption. Strings of syllables, most linger slightly below my stream of
conscious. Destination unknown, I’d scribble furiously for as long as the calm would persist.
Always wondering who I am and why I write.
As locks turn right and evening routines press, I repeat. I am an author. An author, I am. Work
becomes joyful. A time to play and puncture the silence that blankets minds.
I am an author of words
no one / strangers / only I / only You / only they / many / too many /____
I know not why I write. Nor care. Afflicted with a memory, drenched of data, that cares only to
erase the days prior, but knows not how. Pencil points dull as my mind engages. Pages yellow as
files grow. Gas pedals pushed, I turn to words to purge and cleanse. It matters not who reads,
consumes, or cares.
A Collection of Recollections
As a young girl, I was fed a diet of frozen TV dinners. Salisbury steak and perfectly symmetrical
heaps of mashed potatoes. I’d butter both and watch reruns of the Price is Right. As I grew,
freezer contents changed. Lean Cuisines replaced Swanson. Tabatchnick minestrone soup
swapped shelf space with Sara Lee pound cake. Tea and tabbouleh replaced Tator Tots and Tasty
Cakes. Refrigerator contents changed, too. Sticks of butter became small packets of ketchup and
mustard swiped from open trays at the nearby 7-11. Academic and mealtime conversations
focused on calories and calculations. I was schooled on gender roles and expectations using the
language of food. The Price is Right persisted. Wheel of Fortune, too. I was told I was fortunate.
Food, family, focus. By the time I was eleven I knew not to believe everything I was told.
Grade School, Grades, and Group Think Recollections
Freshly mowed grass sways outside Room 152. Windows crack. Sweat stained air meets spring
breezes. Lines on blackboards, in hallways, under desks, of pencils - persist. Cafeteria buns
swish basketball nets. Silver carts of ice cream sandwich treats glisten in late afternoon sun. One
for a quarter, two for forty cents. Stacks of dimes tilt right, then left. Butterflies of shiny sequins
on back of white denim. Screams as Challenger tragedy breaks. Broken toilets, graffiti stalls,
doors with no locks. Heads down on undersized wooden desks. Thumbs up. Handwritten flyers
on oversized cork bulletin boards. Inked worksheets. Grading scales, varsity letters, and notes to
future selves. Signed and sealed. Address unknown. Stacks of paper brush with chipped ceramic
mugs. Feathers and fancy red lacquer pens on teach’s desk.
Norms, Normalcy, and Niceties
I grew up as a learner who colored, poorly, in the lines while never wanting to. I was taught to
comply, center all comments – no left or right justifications allowed, and never confuse my place
with theirs. Ideas mattered, of course, as long as the ideas were theirs. Not mine. Not ours. I grew
up as a learner who defied normal conventions while never being permitted space for defiance.
Categorized as not normal, I became nobody. Norms nurture naming conventions with little
niceties for those who know how to color in the lines. Electives were reserved for period 7. Two
times a week. In home economics we made pillows. All thirty of us girls. Across the hall, the
boys learned to code. In Binary. I want to be there. But thinking was binary, too.
Jen Schneider is an educator, attorney, and writer. She lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Philadelphia. Recent work appears in The Popular Culture Studies Journal, Toho Journal, The New Verse News, Zingara Poetry Review, Streetlight Magazine, Chaleur Magazine, LSE Review of Books, and other literary and scholarly journals.