BOOK REVIEW: What Bob Says (Some More) by Barbara Schmitz

Review by David Z. Drees

Published by Wayne State College Press in 2018, Barbara Schmitz’s most recent collection, What Bob Says (Some More) is simultaneously a tribute to a lifelong love and an honest, oftentimes humorous, portrait of the natural friction a marriage of over forty years bears, laughs about, and eventually, embraces. Love “blows up and yells,” even stalls, like cattle “just standing like predictions / in the meadow,” but it always returns to “‘nestle like spoons’ on / the downstairs bed…soothing the screaming egochildren.” In an impressively balanced collection, Schmitz reminds us that love exists outside of the cliché, Romeo-and-Juliet-esque moments of bloated fantasy. More importantly, she reminds us that love needn’t be complex; if it’s right, it is simple, a second date, “feeding / me popcorn one delicious morsel / at a time, his grin widened and / he shoved a popped piece right / up my nose.”

What Bob Says (Some More) is a collection grounded in character depiction. Through Schmitz’s shifting lenses, the reader knows Bob. We know he “believes in Heaven, but not one someday,” and we smile, perhaps a little enviously, at his refusal to “behave himself because some big / accountant in the sky is keeping tabs on how many times you / forget your prayers.” We see our own relatives and loved ones in Bob’s aura of stubborn compassion; “He does not believe smoking cigarettes will kill him…but if other people want to believe those things it’s all right with him.” The familiarity, the unpolluted authenticity of Schmitz’s characters, entices the reader, and because of it, we are driven to engage the more serious undertones of the collection, the wish “That it would all mean something,” the humbling recognition that, just maybe, “This is all there is.

Barbara Schmitz’s What Bob Says (Some More) will drive the reader to consider whether “we will leave our personalities behind like old clothes,” to question “does God breathe / or is God the breath,” and to wonder if any of it means more than the rumble of a “Cattle truck, probably, / full, on the way to market.” It’ll also draw a smile, an eye-roll, even a sudden urge to pick up the phone, to dial someone we haven’t appreciated in a while. What Bob Says (Some More) is introspective and unifying, a call to treasure even the most fleeting of moments; if they are shared with someone we love, each is valuable, from the wedding day, “being bombarded / with pellets of rice / flung by happy kids” to the tension of a married couple on a wine-stained bedspread. We are driven, through Schmitz’s words and Bob’s mind, to consider our own relationships, to prioritize what matters. As Bob says, “The stains…will help us remember.

What Bob Says (Some More)
Barbara Schmitz
Illustrations by Michael Lynch
Paperback: 82 pages
WSC Press (April 1, 2018)
ISBN-13: 978-0976651390