Rebecca Schumejda: Excerpts from Something Like Forgiveness

I was talking with a friend, whom I had not spoken to in a long time and he asked me If I forgave my brother. I evaded his question and later while reflecting on my reaction, I realized that I was furious because I couldn’t answer his question. How do you forgive someone you love for committing a horrific act, an act that ends the life of another person you loved, and impacts so many other people’s lives?  What I am learning is that forgiveness is a process, one that requires daily attention. Initially, I thought I had to forgive for her sake, then for his, then for mine, but finally I realized that forgiveness is a more universal gift for everyone. We all have to face difficult challenges, ones that test our character, ones that make us rethink our previous convictions. Something Like Forgiveness is a poem about this process. The process is non-linear, doesn’t always make sense, is sloppy, redundant and filled with trial and error much like the poem itself is. — Rebecca Schumejda



…there is another inmate
with tattoos all over his face
he sits down in front of me
he asks me how I am
and I ask him who he is
It’s me he says, Steve 

stop lying to me
tell me what happened
to my little brother
tell me what happened
I need to go on 


you were always kind
and quiet
and helpful
not an animal
who could commit
such a heinous crime

you were my little brother

my best friend

the little boy who
wanted to be a fireman
the teen who wanted to be
an engineer
the adult who wanted to be
free of the voices
that no one else heard 

prison changes people
my therapist said
as if I didn’t know
imagine what he is going through 

and I tell her
I thought about that
until I couldn’t anymore
I tell her I came to her
to find forgiveness
she picks up her calendar
and tells me she will be
out of town
that next Thursday 


Look the blue jays, she says,
when she spots them
in the crabapple tree in our front yard

I turn my head, but close my eyes

the blue jays remind me
of prison guards

the guards who walk you down corridors
in wrist and ankle chains
guards with guns
maybe lovers and children
brothers and sisters
mothers and fathers
maybe even wives
guards who have learned how
to identify other birds
who cannot fly
by their voices
who watch birds
stretching in the yard
birds sharpening shivs
birds being stalked by cats
guards who do nothing
when they should do something
and do something
when they should do nothing
who watch
birds hiding contraband
birds fighting over worms
birds waiting for visitors
who never come 

He has NO ONE
and I am annoyed
with how my subconscious
is trying to guilt me
into forgiveness


I want the world to make sense again

I want to able to look through old photo albums
without tears—

you holding a lobster

a bluefish 

a striped bass

a snapper

a bushel of clams 

an oyster you are shucking 

a deer’s antlers 

a lunchbox 

a bulldozer

a teddy bear

a pumpkin 

a handful of leaves

a tree branch 

a snowball 

the hand of the woman you loved

my oldest daughter cradled in your arms 

your oldest son cradled in your arms 

your youngest son cradled in your arms 

my waist as we ride on the back of an elephant

at the only circus we ever went to 

all of these images captured forever—

reminders of times that made sense


In our mother’s room, I saw a picture
of you and her in the visiting room
of the maximum-security prison
that you call home
I turned the photo around 

I could not look into your eyes
they are the eyes of your sons 

they are muddy puddles 

that my daughters jump into 

with their good shoes on

they are the edge
of the woods
in autumn

they are raw clams
on a half shell 

they are the cat’s eyes
watching a cardinal  

they are cockroaches
scurrying in and out
of your cell 

they are the tar
that stained dad’s hands 

I thought I would never turn away from you

I thought I would never 

say I am an only child when asked 

the cold weather is setting in


You can purchase Something Like Forgiveness at Stubborn Mule Press

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