The Torrid Zone
{An Umbrella Special Feature}

Ada Jill Schneider,

winner of the National Galway Kinnell Poetry Prize, is the author of three volumes of poetry, most recently, Behind the Pictures I Hang, published by Spinner Publications in November 2007.

Ada, who began writing at fifty-three, directs “The Pleasure of Poetry,” a program she founded, at the Somerset Public Library in Massachusetts.

She also reviews poetry books for Midstream Magazine.

—Back to Extra Contents/Issue Links—

Festival of the Lotus Moon

We wished for a thousand eyes
as we swiveled single file
like a paper dragon
through the teeming, bickering,
bargaining cacophony
of the Taipei night bazaar.
Gawking at shrieking vendors
hawking pyramids of bok choy
and plastic combs, we wound
our sweltering way
into the sanctified pagoda
behind throngs of Buddhist worshippers
brandishing fistfuls of smoking
joss sticks they flung onto open flames
in huge, iron urns spewing
flickering, exploding sparks
that swarmed like mosquitoes
in the stifling, stinging air.
Basket upon basket of spices
and crushed marigold petals,
emptied over searing fires,
billowed into clouds of acrid haze.
The jostling crowd surged towards
altars laden with priestly offerings:
sliced oranges, mangos, melons dripping
onto the glistening floor, slippery with juices.
Our wide-angle eyes squinted and darted
as we frenziedly sought our way out
through a hundred hanging rice paper
lanterns dangling lucky-red tassels.


Turning It On (Eclipse: December 25, 2000)

In Cancun, C on the tap
stands for caliente,
at home it means cold.
It could stand for compromise,
but who wants lukewarm?

I want your eyes following
me when I get dressed,
or undressed, whether
I notice or not. Tell me,

how come my broad hips
don’t dismay you? Can’t
you see my sugar-sack breasts?
You’re too easy a turn on.

You’re not being objective.
Even my smile isn’t what
it used to be, and I never was
as pretty as you thought.

I must have blindfolded you
to my faults the way the moon
eclipses the sun, then basks
in its caliente corona.