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The Leopard Housecoat

by Jan Zlotnik Schmidt

During her last days my mother shuffled
From bed to bath
To kitchen table
Her feet scraping against
The cracked linoleum floor.
Step on a crack 
Break your mother's back
Step on a line 
Break your father's spine
A Child, I stepped carefully over
The ruts and spider lines
In pavement assured
My parents would live forever.
I would make it so.
In the evening she played
Scrabble on the kitchen table
Making nonsense words and
Nonsense Syllables
Straightening the round collar
Of her leopard housecoat
We played into the night
She cuffed each sleeve, smoothed the creases
Cupped her hands in her lap
As she pondered the board.
We didn't correct her.
Then her words:
The leopards are sleeping."

Jan Zlotnik Schmidt is a SUNY Distinguished Professor of English at SUNY New Paltz where she teaches composition, creative writing, American and Women's Literature, creative nonfiction, memoir, and Holocaust literature courses. Her work has been published in many journals including The Cream City Review, Kansas Quarterly, The Alaska Quarterly Review, Home Planet News, Phoebe, Black Buzzard Review, The Chiron Review, and Wind. Her work also has been nominated for the Pushcart Press Prize Series. She has had two volumes of poetry published by the Edwin Mellen Press (We Speak in Tongues, 1991; She had this memory, 2000). Her chapbook, The Earth Was Still, was recently published by Finishing Line Press.