“The Stranger in Old Photos” by Philip Schultz

You see him over my Uncle Al’s left shoulder
eating corn at a Sunday picnic & that’s him
behind my parents on a boardwalk in Atlantic City

smiling out of focus like a rejected suitor
& he’s the milkman slouched frozen crossing our old street
ten years before color & his is the face above mine in Times Square

blurring into the crowd like a movie extra’s
& a darkness in his eyes as if he knew his face would outlast him
& he’s tired of living on the periphery of our occasions.

These strangers at bus stops, sleepwalkers
caught forever turning a corner — I always wondered who they were
between photos when they weren’t posing & if they mattered.

It’s three this morning, a traffic light blinks yellow
& in my window my face slips into the emptiness between glares.
We are strangers in our own photos. Our strangeness has no source.

“The Stranger in Old Photos” by Philip Schultz, from The God of Loneliness: Selected and New Poems. © Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

“It’s Sunday Morning in Early November” by Philip Schultz

and there are a lot of leaves already.
I could rake and get a head start.
The boy’s summer toys need to be put
in the basement. I could clean it out
or fix the broken storm window.
When Eli gets home from Sunday school,
I could take him fishing. I don’t fish
but I could learn to. I could show him
how much fun it is. We don’t do as much
as we used to do. And my wife, there’s
so much I haven’t told her lately,
about how quickly my soul is aging,
how it feels like a basement I keep filling
with everything I’m tired of surviving.
I could take a walk with my wife and try
to explain the ghosts I can’t stop speaking to.
Or I could read all those books piling up
about the beginning of the end of understanding…
Meanwhile, it’s such a beautiful morning,
the changing colors, the hypnotic light.
I could sit by the window watching the leaves,
which seem to know exactly how to fall
from one moment to the next. Or I could lose
everything and have to begin over again.

“It’s Sunday Morning in Early November” by Philip Schultz, from The God of Loneliness: Selected and New Poems. © Houghton Mifflin, 2010.