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Pamela Schmid


I can’t sleep.

The lilac unlatches my bedroom window and creeps inside. It floats into bed and engulfs me with its pillowy scent.

I know I should like it.

After all—it’s a harbinger of summer. That sweet profusion of blooms proves beyond doubt that we’ve rounded the bend. Memories of its lumpen, snow-encased branches still stir, ghostlike. We shiver now, not from cold but from the soft joy of breeze against bare skin.

I want to like the lilac. I even want to love it. Its plain, tight buds—so primly Minnesotan—belie its liquor-laced intemperance. I want to open my arms and grow dizzy in its embrace.

But the lilac’s scent holds no subtlety. It doesn’t hint. It hits me full-on, like a high-pitched catterwaul, like cheap Manischewitz, like a fast-talking snake-oil salesman promising eternal life. How can such tiny blooms hold so much blowsy, naked need?

The June evening closes down around me, perfect as perfect gets. I lie here thinking: This radiant night, this green flush of lawn, your hand in mine. But I can’t take perfect sometimes. It demands too much of me. There is always too much or not enough, and the lilac proves this.

I want to sidle up and tell it not to try so hard. Tone down your overwrought scent. You, just you, are enough.


Before receiving a 2013-14 Loft Mentor Series award in nonfiction, Pamela Schmid spent nearly a decade as a staff writer for the Star Tribune of Minneapolis. Her work has appeared in River Teeth, Sycamore Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Sweet: A Literary Confection and elsewhere. She holds an MFA degree from Hamline University and is currently completing a book of linked essays on the power of silence and words. She can be found at

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