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Robert L. Schwarz (1937-2014)

Robert L. Schwarz was an American writer, poet and teacher who was born March 1, 1937 and passed away on October 14, 2014 at his home in Willoughby, Ohio. He was born with cerebral palsy and was largely autodidactic, never having attended grade school nor high school. After graduating from college summa cum laude with a B.A. in French Language and Literature, he did free-lance writing, eventually teaching at the college level and for 15 years in a program for gifted students in the Cleveland Heights School System, where he taught English, Humanities, Philosophy, Creative Thinking, Logic, T. S. Eliot, Mathematics, and Abnormal Psychology. During his tenure at Heights High, he received a grant from the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation to develop a humanities program for teaching mathematics in relation to the arts. Schwarz was also an avid bibliophile with a personal library of over 30,000 volumes. His BROKEN IMAGES: A STUDY OF THE WASTE LAND (Bucknell University Press, 1988) is a critical study which "discloses for the first time the source of nearly every line of T. S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land,' illuminating not only the poem's obscurities but also the poet's emotional, philosophical, and literary proclivities and the creative process by which this great work evolved." In his criticism, Schwarz draws on both Eastern and Western philosophical traditions to show that subjectivism and objectivism are two sides of the same coin, reducing free will and determinism to non-issues: "We frame the world or it frames us―it's all the same." His other books include METAPHORS AND ACTION SCHEMES (Bucknell University Press, 1987), which investigates the role of metaphors and embodied imagery in intellectual history, two books on epistemology, JOURNEYS THROUGH ALCHERA: MAKING REALITY AS WE GO ALONG and ORIGINS OF EVERYDAY REALITY, and MINDSCAPES, a book of his poetry. At the time of his death, Schwarz's most current project was MATHEMATICS FOR EVERYONE, "a forthcoming book from which the average person can instruct himself/herself in the basic concepts of mathematics from the elementary idea of number through algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus on to relativity theory and quantum physics."

Symphonic Dances

Inspired by Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances

Music from another room,
Eyes whose gaze held me
In a dream chamber
Yesterday or beneath the sea,
Masked from a play we missed.
These fall ahead of me,
Playful children
Rustling across the leafy carpet
Of autumn, rousing me
From heavy forgetfulness.
Day is so prickly,
Yet so muted
I slide enchanted
Past the sharp wrack
Of its relentless loom.

Weaving Ware

Then there’s the ivory spoon
And the white bird
That pierced the forest air,
Epiphanies that draw
The contours of our soul,
Like a finger pointing in the sand.

The moon, too, drifts
With the tide.
These memories
Are drawn away and carried back,
Endless wanderers
In the faceless loom.

Remove the mask:
Regard the eyes
That gaze upon the nothingness
Of a breath,
The stillness of a smile.

You never knew;
You will never know.
These things exist
Only for our contemplation.

(January 15, 2008)


Dark nights
When your mind
Turns against you
And trees morph
Into wreaths
Into wheels
Into rainbows,
And it is all
About conclusions
That cannot be reached.

My mind hides
Behind minds
Behind other minds
Not wholly my own.
How then
Can morning
Ever come new?

(December 13, 2012)

Let Your Fancies Roam

Let your fancies roam
Until they make a home
On cloud-shaped skies
Or ship-scraped seas:

Skeletons half formed,
Fetuses forlorned,
Ideas half spied,
All ripped beneath the tide.

Circe spins her yarns of song
Over nether shore
Until mind's eye blinks
And she is heard no more.

Thus do our fancies roam
In peril to any purpose
Than to fit the loom
Of pointless fabrication.

(December 8, 2012)

Old Age

Self falls away,
Collapsing like a paper silhouette
After a long summer morning
Of play.

Windows swallow
Into the walls
Which fold outward
To vanishing horizons,
Houses tumbled
To final ruin.

Only the inner voices
Are left, echoing
Like lost winds
Through empty corridors,
Whispering tales
Tangled in myths
Only night can embrace
And you or I
Can never understand.

(January 28, 2013)


Once there was the contour
Of her face, long after.
Growing pale
And melting into smoke:
Eyes furled in upon a dream
You once could share,
Now closed, eyes closed
As if it were a mask
And all music were at an end.

With voice gone,
Meaning muffled,
Imagination fills the blankness,
Knowing neither hope
Nor despair, but numb
Fulfillment of empty hands

(November 3, 2011)

I Now Have a History

I now have a history.
The past is with me,
And the future runs,
Almost passing me by.

I do not know
How to look at your face.
The Medusa watch is over
And I have not turned to stone;
The spider sits idle in its web.

There the vacant landscape lies;
There, the sky
And the leaf
Blown wet against your lips.

This is the moment:
You and I;
The lantern butterfly
Alive within the flame;
The frown caught behind the looking-glass.

The story, hollowed
In a candle sleep,
Had just begun
And now it's over,
Stark splinters
Still singing in the wound.

(September 8, 2006)


The hour, solitary tree,
Bothers into rows
Stretching to tomorrow
And all the tomorrows
Of tomorrow.
And my footsteps echo back
To yesterday
And all the yesterdays
Of yesterday.

The chair is empty;
The table, set for one
And starvation,
Stomach empty to mere nutrition,
Eyes searching territories
Not even on the map:
The guest that never came;
The guest that came
But was never here.

And the stillness outside
Eludes me
For the stillness
That is always there.
And the stillness
Deafens me.

(January 30, 2007)

To E. Strand, Lover of Forgotten Lore

Far away, pages turn
In the winds
Blowing toward tomorrow,
Letters fashioned
In elegant hand,
Leading eyes
Along new ways
Of saying the unsaid.

This one, almost carved
In slipcase, borrowing
Your smile, reads
Upon itself
Something you will
Know upon another day,
When you find the treasure
You almost never had.

(July 30, 2011)


My bones stretch inward
Back to stars
Empty in the coldness
Of sky, night’s metallic song
Struck on the anvil
Set against the setting sun;
And the shadow that it casts
Rings with the shadow
Of my bones.

Dreams are launched
On cables of such dross,
We dare not touch the harp
On which they sing.

The signature
Of the inner pulse
Is anonymous,
Traceless to the author
Of our desire,
Painful reminder
Of our fate
Hidden among omens
We never learned to read
Or have forgotten.

The path
Is easy to follow
Even when we know
It leads nowhere.

Finally, we get to keep
Our dreams,
Once they have lapsed.

(January 30, 2007)

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