Paperback Price: $7.50
Paperback ISBN: 978-0914086673


Selected Poem

Rooms Overheard

Thunder crashes like furniture dropped overhead,
those childhood angels rearranging their rooms.
Bureau, bookshelf, bed–grounded again, my daughter
shoves them across the floor, anger pumping her veins.
Soon I hear singing and know she is pleased
to be solving in space the problem that eluded her:
grownups refusing to be moved.

When I was a child and angels argued slamming doors,
I lolled, feet up the couch, head on the floor
envisioning other rooms silent and spare as ceilings
where weight couldn't go, nothing that breaks.
I couldn't budge a thing in the world outside
so I kept rearranging mine, loved waking to new
angles of light, books against a different wall
as if the same words might have powers I never guessed.

I heard all the shifting above, as if God wore boots
and strode through rooms kicking pianos, ripping drapes
while downstairs china rattled in the cabinet,
window cords broke. My father was already dead.
Now my grandfather began to mutter and glare,
my sister left on a boat for Africa,

Watching cracks in the ceiling I half expected it
to open on another world where the lost would be found:
a shaft of light, angels crowding my room, opening
drawers, spilling perfume. I stopped wanting those wings
and thought of a new language–shells, stones, hard things
you could line up and count, put in boxes, new words
strong as a shoe pounding the table.

Everyone looked up astonished as if the furniture had drained
from the room when my feathery whispers turned leather.
My mother wrote my sister, she didn't know what to do,
and my sister sent back letters to me, pictures of herself
surrounded by thatched roofs and vines. She sent words,
flashy ones that sounded like what they named: grasshopper,
thunder, a small rodent we don't even have in America.

All this was to say how big the world is, and don't be afraid.
She had a language full of phrases about how the sky could
blacken and crack like anger, the rain could pour,
and then miraculously be over, all forgiven, everything
clear, no sign except leaves dripping under a faultless
blue tropical sky.

Rooms Overhead


“Betsy Sholl’s simple language reveals a vision of innocence and purity that can only be reached by breaking taboos against our grotesque, wild, sexual animal selves. Her poems do it quietly, even discreetly, but there is a moment of primitive purity in each of her best poems that I find exciting to encounter.”
—Diane Wakoski

“Betsy Sholl delivers her dense complex visionary world with grace and musical skill. Her materials are most familiar, but they are not ordinary. She well knows the world we live in, and she knows much more than that. She is a fresh and striking talent, a highly serious one.”
—Fred Chappell

“Betsy Sholl’s Rooms Overhead moves with a breathless intensity. The poems snap open and shut with the fluidity of rapid eye movements in the real world. What passes with fugitive quickness is captured and ordained in the language: ‘I want the real, the sound of it cracking,/ shiny yolk spilling like the birth of the sun./ And when that’s done, I want to be free of wanting.’ These poems track down origins and losses with a sharp tongue and celebratory vision. Here is a woman at a critical juncture in her life, who takes a long look back and a deep breath toward whatever it will take to bear witness and record what’s ahead. The book is studded with talent and awareness.”
—Jack Myers

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