The Moon Not The Finger Pointing
by Steven Shroeder
The moon, not the finger, pointing is a sort of memoir - a collection of 67 lyric poems that trace the course of a life from the Texas Panhandle through Chicago to China and back, with the window open "because everybody knows / by now there is a poem out there." In Chicago, "a street musician / plays Vivaldi on violin not two blocks from / a kid shaking a cup half full of coins, / keeping time to Public Enemy, / still fighting the power / on an old boom box" and an encounter with two cops asking after " a woman in red talking crazy" ends with "a solemn vow to speak truth / to power, to tell all // next time an armed patrol stops me / to ask about speaking in public / and what I see when I hear it." In Shenzhen, "we wander slowly through / a long talk on cracks in neo- // liberal cities where artists live. / A friend of friends says / strong German beer / has made her dizzy and I look // like Marx." Along the way, "Every common road is / lined with recollection." Reading Arkansas Testament in a bar in Springfield, Missouri, "the sound sense of a sentence / I think might be Mingus creeps in / between Walcott's invocation / of Richard Pryor and / his Newark, the appearance of a messiah / nowhere more evident than on every corner / here as he says it is there-and // hearing Hampton's vibraphone rising / from a sea of sound that signifies nothing, / I believe." And in the end, "The hand / evolved for nothing, the way / the universe turns. It is // what it has done, what / it does, what it will / do. It is // the moon, not / the finger, // pointing."
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About Steven Schroeder
I am a poet and visual artist who spent many years moonlighting as a philosophy professor — most often in interdisciplinary settings, most recently at the University of Chicago Graham School. I studied at the University of Chicago (where I received my Ph.D. in Ethics and Society in 1982) and Valparaiso University (where I received my B.A. in Psychology in 1974). I grew up on the High Plains in the Texas Panhandle, and that is where I first learned to take nothing seriously. Emptiness plays an important role in both my poetry and my painting: I often find myself spending as much time on what is not there as on what is. This usually means focusing on a single image and letting the whole composition spring up around it — not a narrative but an all at once that evokes a here and now that is, here, now, neither. A likely story is likely to grow out of this when readers and viewers encounter it, but I hope my art always invites more than it contains.