Poetry: Selections from Mather Schneider

A Plague on Man

Woke up unsure about the meaning of existence
or the nature of the soul
next to a beautiful woman who I cannot touch
it seems impossible to have 2 good days in a row
I write to know myself
and to know God
but it’s not working
still haven’t got the vaccine
“There is a plague on man:
the opinion that he knows something”
Montaigne said in his tights and frilly neckwear
I still can’t control my dreams though I’ve been trying
I seem to get a grip sometimes but it slips away
like a salamander down a manhole
the only cure I’ve ever found for what I’ve got
is killing me
my stomach jumps and rolls in clumsy agony
I’ve missed my window
the bank account is scraping bottom
and now the water pump’s crapped out

Call Me Jessy James 

I lost my car key in the sand at the beach
I hid it so it wouldn’t get stolen then couldn’t find it again
I was hungover and sad and distracted
about losing my last friend on Facebook
I nearly cried looking for my key
in all that sand
ashamed and foolish and sunburned and dehydrated
it was a beautiful day but that hardly mattered
I had to take a taxi to the house to get the spare key
I told the taxi driver I would pay him when I opened my car
to get my wallet
he was desperate enough to trust me
back at the beach the taxi driver was pissed I got sand on his seat
I had to pay him an extra 50 pesos
there was a guy washing my car
I knew him
he was always there at the beach
he said,
How’s it going Jessy James?
he always called me Jessy James
no idea why except he’s a little nuts
I gave him 20 pesos for washing the car with his dirty rag
he said,
You sure you don’t want me to get you a nice girl
or something good to smoke,
Jessy James?
No, that’s ok, I said
I drove home and Natalia scolded me like I was a child
though I have far
far fewer years to live than a child
This is why we need a metal detector, Natalia said
I had to give her that one
about once a month she comes up with a nugget

Sitting in the Bar Car on the Amtrak While a Storm Moves in Over Illinois in the Springtime 

I’m inside this box rattling
toward a cemetery called Swan Lake
near my old home town
where they will lower into the ground
another box, a smaller box.
From the train window
the farther away the farmhouse
the slower it moves by,
the more gently time seems
to touch it, and the farm boy
who stands near the tracks
with his eyes wide as flattened pennies
grows as we move toward him
and then he’s gone in a whiplash.
A woman at another table
begs her mother to tell her
why men are so distant,
why people leave, why things
have to happen this way.
Her mother doesn’t know  
and the woman begins to cry.
I stand to go to the bathroom
and when the train lurches I stumble
into her and spill her drink.
She begins to scream
and bat at her wet blouse
while her mother tries to calm her.
I tell her I’m sorry,
I’m sorry,
as the heavy green trees
beyond the glass
shake in the wind
like giant wet dogs
in slow motion.  
I’m inside this box
rattling toward a cemetery
called Swan Lake
near my old home town
but there will be no swans. There
have never been any swans.

The Christening 

Yesterday Pedro was on his way to his baby’s baptism
after working all morning throwing mud on cement blocks
some guy fender bended him at Alameda
but he didn’t have a moment to parley
he showed up 5 minutes late to the church
the preacher slammed the door in his face
dead-bolted it
Pedro locked out and the rest of us locked in
Pedro’s wife Yolanda was with the baby in the front row
with all the other mamas and papas and babies
waiting to be blessed so they’ll be let into heaven
it was 108 degrees
preacher wouldn’t turn the ac on
nobody knew what his deal was
hand fans going wild
babies crying
murmurs and whispered protests
Pedro standing outside yelling and pounding on the door
the whole world could hear
Pedro with hard hands and cement on his pants
preacher did his thing with the babies
mumbled the words and threw the holy water
in an assembly line manner
then split out the back like a cockroach
secret exit
some lackey finally unlocked the front doors
we all flooded outside
each family paid 500 dollars for the ceremony
there are now 20 new babies in stinky old Hermosillo
waiting to be embraced by the great unknown


My thumb twitches
I’ve been drunk for 2 weeks straight
the beach is closed for quarantine
Natalia eats pineapple and stares into her phone
I can’t get away from her
we are forced to live together like an arranged marriage
just following orders
sick all the time coughing and sniffling and vomiting
she’s been crying again
she doesn’t want to die
but we both know I’ll go first
the idea is by dying first I will be spared
the suffering of living without her
but sometimes I wonder about that
for now here we are holed-up like boll weevils
there’s nothing on tv and nothing to do
except watch people fight on Twitter
about Heraclitus and book titles
sometimes there are little red hearts from strangers far away
and sometimes there is pineapple

Mather Schneider's poetry and prose have appeared in many places since 1994. He has 6 books available and lives in Mexico.


  1. I enjoyed all these, but especially "Sitting in the Bar Car on the Amtrak..." That one knocked me out.


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