Two Black Eyes and a Patch of Hair Missing


poems by

Lauren Schmidt

Poetry book, 100 pages. Cover price: $14

($12 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-413-6

Release date: 2013






Lauren Schmidt

Lauren Schmidt’s is the author of The Voodoo Doll Parade and Psalms of The Dining Room. Her poetry has been published in The Progressive, Alaska Quarterly Review, New York Quarterly,Rattle, Nimrod, and many other journals. Her poems have been selected as finalists for the 2008 and 2009 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize, the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, Intro to Journals Project, and the Dancing Girl Press Chapbook Contest. Her awards include the 2009 So to Speak Poetry Prize, the 2011 Neil Postman Prize for Metaphor, and the 2012 Bellevue Literary Review’s Marica and Jan Vilcek Prize for Poetry. Schmidt volunteer teaches creative writing at a halfway house for homeless mothers in her native New Jersey.

Lauren Schmidt’s poems are the product of close attention paid to revealing details of her life, exactitude in language and emotional complexity. She neither bows at the alter of the ego nor stoops to mere artifice. Her poetry is earned, and it rewards close reading with sometimes gritty epiphany and uncommon grace.

–Sam Hamill


These are tough, aware poems. Schmidt is not a decorous writer; she turns over ordinary life to describe what’s underneath. In language that is simultaneously crude and elegant, she bears witness to the absurdities of bodily existence, and makes of them her own urgent music.

–Kim Addonizio

A Woman Queefs at the Gym
While Stretching

Because you have headphones on, you can’t hear
but surely you can feel the air stuttering out from
your spandex pants. The sound thrusts its quick jabs,
a tiny punching bag sputtering as you stand up
from touching your toes. I watch for your eyes to scan
the room, wide and white with awareness. I wait for them
to spot the likes of me, doing my best not to fall out
of my Downward Dog and roll around howling on my mat.

But you go on climbing the ropes of the air,
then you sway like beach reeds in the breeze
because maybe

you’ve had that moment with your husband
or thirty years ago with your first love: that moment

when your body sighs the relief that comes
with comfort, that moment

you hear your body echo the shudder
he left, wet between your legs; that moment

when he hugs your face with its wide eyes
to his neck which kicks quietly with laughter.


In Praise of Men

A man ambles in the magazine aisle
at Barnes & Noble, hands crammed
in his pockets, scuffing his heels
as if he stumbled here, in front of her.
He grabs her off the shelf, the blonde
on the front of this month’s Maxim,
stuffs her deep into the opened spine
of Motor Trend, then scans the pages frantically.
He stops at the spread of her, nude, on her knees
on a bed. Mouth opened in an O, eyes burst
wide as if he’d busted in on her sleep.
The gathered sheets cover little
but most of her, which is the secret, it seems:
to leave the rest to the men who complete
the portrait in their heads, as this man does.
He puffs his cheeks and releases
a heavy breath through the tight slit
of his lips, shakes his head in disbelief as he flips
through her pictures by opening
and closing the magazine altogether,
the poor model throttled inside.

Three times he forces her back to her shelf,
There is something sweet about this-
the monologue that must be buzzing
in his head. But how can he resist
what is there but not there, that breast,
that tender bulb of flesh, shot in a flood
of light so white-gold he knows it must be

holy? Saved by a tug at his sweatshirt, his little girl
flashes him the hardcover story of love in a time long,
long ago, the Princes who pull us up on horseback
and ride away into the night; who kiss our mouths
and magically restore us to life.
No. There are men, real men, men
who can leave behind what is not there for what is-
a wife walking to the middle of the aisle at 5:00,
and a daughter skipping around them,
her book-bag smacking the back of the head.


They call you that because they like you my Biology teacher
assured me of the boys in middle school. Just ignore them,
she said, but not a word to the boys that named me.

Because it was my lesson to learn it was a blessing to bear
this burden of breasts; my lesson to learn to be grateful
for them, come to love them the way I loved baseball then,
since it won’t be long before they drop like baseballs
into the toes of tube socks, hang, pendulous and gray.
It was my lesson to love that name, to accept that it was mine
because it had been given to me in a way my body begged for

and resisted, like when I was six and found a magazine in a lot
behind my school, hard and crinkled from heavy rain.
The picture: a woman, bare-breasted, shoulders pressed back,
a man’s tongue curling towards the frightful pink of the nipple.
The black and white right and wrong of me walked away,
but the image stayed, its cruel beauty moved inside me,
flashed between my legs as I rustled against my bed sheets

in what felt like shame. I recognized the feeling in the pictures
they drew of me, passed around halls like sticks of gum,
slipped through the slit in my locker. T-I-T-S blocked across
the top of the stick figure, two fattened U’s spanned her chest:

the reason all the boys liked me. That year, my brother
burst into the halls of my school to bust blood
from the lip of a boy who leered at his girlfriend’s t-shirts.
Glossy petals spurt from his face and around his head
as he crashed to the concrete, wrinkled with pain.
For a week, a dark corncockle bloomed from his eye.

My teacher once told me the purple flowers are a kind of poison
that choke what would otherwise sprout around them.
I was not sure I could believe anything she said, until I felt
it grow wild inside me. For years I held it there, the name,
the meaning of it, that cruelty I worked so hard to love.

If you would like to read more of Two Black Eyes and a Patch of Hair Missing by Lauren Schmidt, order your copy today.

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