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Instructions for the Journey by Pat Schneider

Instructions for the Journey
Pat Schneider

The self you leave behind
is only a skin you have outgrown.
Don’t grieve for it.
Look to the wet, raw, unfinished
self, the one you are becoming.
The world, too, sheds its skin:
politicians, cataclysms, ordinary days.
It’s easy to lose this tenderly
unfolding moment. Look for it
as if it were the first green blade
after a long winter. Listen for it
as if it were the first clear tone
in a place where dawn is heralded by bells.

And if all that fails,

wash your own dishes.
Rinse them.
Stand in your kitchen at your sink.
Let cold water run between your fingers.
Feel it.


There are letters to write. Some to you. Some to myself. And there are poems, oh page after page after page of them. Sometimes I wish I can show you.

Sometimes I wish I can take you. When I’m writing, I mean. But then we have this place, don’t we? Some pages a reckoning. Some pages a homecoming. But always, always a journey.

Yes, there’ll still be heavy stones scattered about my life. Some days I might even put them in my pocket. But I’m hoping I’ll kick them out of the way, watch them roll off the path, go about my day, eventually forget. I’m crossing my fingers.

I’ve left myself a thousand times before. I’m so concerned about being I haven’t thought about becoming.


This poem appeared in Olive Street Transfer by Pat Schneider, published by Amherst Writers & Artists Press, 1999. Shared here with profound gratitude.


Read more works by Pat Schneider • Find books by this poet • Or view my library


Explore poems in pursuit of: journeys • self-forgiveness • becoming • Or browse the index

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Instructions for the Journey by Pat Schneider

Comments (6)

  • Thanks for sharing this this poem. Wonderful instructions for living. Your introductory thoughts too are a pleasure to read.

  • What a nice surprise. I lived in Amherst for many years, have met Pat Scheider, and know a couple of the people in the Amherst Writers & Artists group 🙂

  • Meg

    I read you, like others read their Horoscope….

  • Mini

    I will never be able to describe just what the last verse of this poem makes me feel. It is the most I have felt understood by someone, or something. So grateful I found this poem. Or that it found me. Hope you’re taking care. Love, M.

  • m

    “I’m so concerned about being I haven’t thought about becoming.” Thank you, T. I keep coming back to this post.


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