Rebecca Schumejda

Opening Up the Walls

When my husband opens up the walls, he uncovers
leaky pipes, yellow jacket nests, mice droppings,
snake skins, a compact mirror with white powder residue
and a razor blade nestled inside. On the surface,
everything appeared fine. My brother was anyone’s
brother, son, friend, nephew, cousin, father, two eyes,
a nose, a mouth, ears, but when the walls were
opened up there was a labyrinth of wires and hidden
junction boxes behind a fresh coat of flesh. To think we
were never alone, like my brother wasn’t, the voices
were digging tunnels in his brain the way the mice dug
through our insulation. Looking back, you could say
there were signs, a musty odor, scratching, unjustified
paranoia. But when you live in it or with it every day,
it’s your normal. Sheetrock and skin, wood and bone,
insulation and blood. Nails. love. All the work
that needs to be completed before moving back in.


The Evidence of Absence

My youngest is walking now, running now,
yammering on in a language all her own,
one we decode correctly some of the time.
What else can you hope for,
but to understand someone
some of the time?
She will never know the you
who we all loved because
her first years are your first years
of a two-decade prison sentence.

She’ll know the you who did the unthinkable,
the you who lost your mind,
the you, how could you, the I hate
you, I hate you, I love
you, I don’t know you. You
who abandoned your own kids. You
who we whisper about after we think
she is asleep. You, the evidence

of absence. She won’t remember
the you, still in County,
holding her against your orange jumpsuit,
breathing her in
until the guard stared,
the you who didn’t want to let her go,
the you whose eyes told me doing time
would be easier if we never came back.


Rebecca Schumejda is the author of Our One-Way Street (NYQ Books, 2017) Waiting at the Dead End Diner (Bottom Dog Press, 2014), Cadillac Men (NYQ Books, 2012), Falling Forward (sunnyoutside, 2009) and several chapbooks including Common Wages, which she co-authored with Don Winter. She received her MA in Poetics and Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. She lives with her family in New York’s Hudson Valley.