Deft Fingers Dance

Naila Claudia Schulte

View From Gaza         A Pantoum




Twisted into old age from the pain:

Not what a child’s face looks like.

Five sisters mourn a sniper’s prize.

Shrieks common as the wind.


Not what a child should hear:

Missiles racing, demons out of fire.

Shrieks common as the wind.

Tear falls on a tiny graying face.


Missiles, demons out of fire.

White phosphorus the only light.

Tear falls on a tiny graying face.

Have to die for what they could become.


White phosphorus the only light.

Bleeding out, no rescue on the way.

Have to die for what they could become.

A last breath, and now a wail.


Bleeding out, no rescue on the way.

Small hand trapped in splintered beams.

A last breath, and then a wail.

Hope on rubble.


Small hand trapped in splintered beams.

Flattened shiny image on a screen.

Young men rap and dance, hope over rubble.

Clown doctors lift laughter out of gloom.


Flattened glassy image of a land

Given to them by the book they wrote.

Clown doctors lift laughter out of gloom.

We’re pestilence in our ancestral home.


Given to them by the book they wrote.

Small faces twisted, aged with grief.

Pestilence in our ancestral home.

Five sisters mourn a sniper’s prize.




 The pantoum is a form in which the second and fourth lines of each verse are repeated as the first and third of the next, often with variation within lines. Lines from the first verse are repeated in the last. 

The Blood 

Past trellises shadowed in Mediterranean light,

the sun’s primal child, the Olive,

standard of survivors.


In Gaza they die sooner.

You’re born a target without legs or wings,

play on bones of houses, watch grief


volley between eyes of passers-by.

Elixir ripped from your lips.

Roots cut, burned, sprayed so they won’t return.


“Even in war, don’t destroy the trees,” says the Torah.


The Close and Holy Darkness


(In which I borrow from both Dylans)




Give me my pain.

I need to be human

when birdsong and sun

through pastel petals

aren’t enough.


                    And though her eyes are fixed upon

                    Noah’s great rainbow

                    She spends her time peeking

                    Into Desolation Row.


Deliver it mangled, grotesque as a DU baby,

a grandmother’s scream

on a blood-striped stolen street.

I collect joy from what they lost,

grow what I know from the anchorman’s

genial sucker-punch.


                    At midnight all the agents

                    And the super human crew

                    Come out and round up everyone

                   That knows more than they do.


They axe the Prophets’ words

as if no green shoots sprang from dead wood.

As the conquered burn in the mask’s name

wake me up in holy flame.


                    The Phantom of the Opera

                    In a perfect image of a priest


Sheltered by destruction’s shadow.

What brutal wounds I need to bloom.





Bob Dylan quotes from “Desolation Row”

Title: Dylan Thomas



American Manifesto



We believe in sin. We call it sadness.

Nakedness of raw nerves.


We always win. We know it as privilege.

Who sweeps the coins off the table at closing, licks the bowl,

gets first dibs. Who throws the knockout punch while collapsing

into death. Who doesn't know the difference.


We believe, and our belief destroys us.

Singing is for Idols; caged birds tune in. Shorn wings,

electromagnetic bars, wholly plausible matrix. Beyond the curtain,

the puny Wizard detonates triumphant laughter.



Originally published in Apiary 4

What Enters The Blood




Brains talking to brains is okay

in, say, the nightly news.

Plastic products

immune to constraint.

Synthetic humans, tooled containers,

truth recycled into bins and bottles

rosy and sleek, to fit

what’s tainted, preposterous.


Real words can’t lie.

If they try

ink gets stuck in the pen

as plastic phrases tumble from brain

toward too-narrow opening

before the heart can melt them

into something a body might absorb.


Go here to escape:

this stream seeking your capillaries.

A poem won’t harden,

can’t hide you.

Aubade For End Times


(Aubade: A piece sung or played at dawn)


A reflection on political awareness vs. spiritual peace. Some wise ones have said that any attachments we’re holding when we die stay with us in the next dimension.





I wake to the dying world,

whites of the day’s eyes

flaunting shine through blinds,

deleting dreams.

The glare casts tangible shadows:

levels metastasize up charts,

poison fire rising.

And behind the charts,

insistent, indelible,

the babies born without brains,

imploding starfish,

futile flow of extinguished ocean

over dead flesh.


Grandmother on the mountain,

show me how, no other way up,

you severed the underbrush

with fierce, frail hands,

ripped your feet from vines.

Then, wrapped in clouds,

you prayed your way past gravity,

juggled caring, grieving, and forgetting,

honing a heart to house you

through all your invisible days.

Everything Is God



For Spinoza and David Ives, author of “New Jerusalem”


In 1656, Spinoza was excommunicated by the Jewish community in Portugal for his rejection of an anthropomorphic God, along with all scripture and religious doctrine. A major issue was his claim that there is no theological, metaphysical, or even moral sense in which the Jews are God’s “chosen people.”





A love so incandescent he had to hide it

from blaspheming description. Strange suffering,


knowing God was the blood and the vessel, the brain

and its inevitable thoughts, the leaf and the worm,


yet all of it past explaining. Truth as water and wine,

tablets from the mountain, stone onto conscience?


He’d see a caterpillar pushing back into the cocoon;

sin and penance, form and chaos, cause and effect


concocted, a map’s fixed lines over emerald moss.

He shouted, sobbed: God is the outline and substance


of ant and empire, their shadow and light, meaning and articulation.

Quiver of breath, weight of waves, destiny’s itinerary. The love


in knowing this. The brain claims it, makes us small.

On the fretless violin, deft fingers dance in Eternity.



Originally published in Philadelphia Poets 2014

Persephone's Flowers



Persephone, daughter of the Greek goddess of the harvest, Demeter, was captured by Hades and taken to the underworld. Before leaving, she ate four seeds of a pomegranate. Since in ancient mythology eating the fruit of one’s captor meant that one would have to return to him or his country, Persephone was doomed to spend four months of every year in the underworld.




He found me in the land of living flowers.

He let me take it, the narcissus,

on our passage over dark waters.


If flowers lived forever, where would I walk

and wave my hands? Imagine fields of petals

too thick to pass through, a choked-off sky.

I celebrate and mourn the blooms falling from my hands.

Torn at our roots, I let each one shrivel.

But that's not what you say in the Spring.


You say it in the chilly caverns. There,

as my narcissus died, I burned in my own self-love.

That's what you do there. Nothing looks good;

the only nourishment, Death's own food, forms a shadow

you never shake off. It binds you to this place.

I walked on petal straw, breathed it.

Watery stems decayed.

Putrid like them, I shaped darker words.


In Spring he sent me back

with bags of petal dust for my mother's fields.

Roses danced themselves into spirals.

I was their visiting sun, weathered, undefiled.

All Poems Copyright 2018 by Naila Claudia Schulte   All rights reserved

Naila Claudia Schulte is a poetry educator, former English/ESL teacher, singer/songwriter and editor who counts among her influences the teachings of the great Sufi sage M.R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. See: In her poems and songs Schulte explores the conflicts, emotions, ironies, and metaphysical clues that naturally arise during the process of deftly examining a troubled world. 

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