Finalist – 2023 James H. Nash Contest

Stop me if you’ve heard this before


I’ll never forget, my best friend says
to start his favorite stories.
I think Oh yes you will.
I can request authentication codes
and by the time I find my phone
wonder who texted and why.
I’ve reported happenings
to people who told me they happened
and people they happened to.
In my earliest memory,
my grandfather and I caught a fish
with another clinging to its tail,
the flash of the second letting go
and splashing back in the ocean
a shadow of an echo I believe I recall.
Faded almost translucent,
my grandparents stand in a photo
in their eighties in assisted living.
A tremor of letters on the back
says This is to remind you
we weren’t always as old as we will be.
I called my parents old when they were
in their forties, same as I am now
that I know not to laugh
if an elder asks How long are you here?
a third or fourth time. The final time
I saw my grandmother,
she told my uncle I know you’re my son
but not which one. I heard
she often asked for my grandfather,
gone a decade by then. Months after
her death, I dreamed she forgot
who she was, and I repeated
her name until she remembered
and my grandfather returned
and they left together, hand-in-hand.
I only know because I wrote it
in a bedside notebook when I woke.

STEVEN D. SCHROEDER is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Wikipedia Apocalyptica. His second book, The Royal Nonesuch, won the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award from Southern Illinois University. His poems have appeared in Michigan Quarterly ReviewThe Cincinnati Review, and Copper Nickel, among others. He edits the online poetry journal $ ( and works as a Creative Content Manager for a financial marketing agency in St. Louis.