While our editorial staff continues to prepare the first volume of Arnold Schnabel’s towering and massive chef-d'œuvre for publication later this year, we should like to present the following classic sonnet, written sometime in January of 1963 during Arnold’s commitment at the Byberry state mental hospital in Northeast Philadelphia.
One night the ceiling opened and I rose up slowly;
above my house I twisted round, looked down and back
on Nedro Avenue, B Street, and the Heintz factory;
black smoke billowed from a gaping maw-like stack,
smoke enveloped me and all was dark;
like a dead cinder upward I floated and spinned:
I called to God for light, a tiny spark:
he did not answer. The reason? I had sinned.
For fifteen years I stared at the night within my head
and then at last I slept for another fifteen,
till I awoke firmly bound to a clean white bed.
It’s been several days and now the bed is not so clean,
and neither am I; each night I watch the ceiling yawn,
but I am well-strapped in: I await the dawn.
(Kindly scroll down the right hand column of this page to find links to many other poems by Arnold Schnabel, as well as to all cyber-published chapters of his memoir Railroad Train to Heaven.)