Poetry: Selections from Mather Schneider
The Love Seat
I’m pissed and exhausted and I want to lie down.
I carry my tools in a green bag
over to the loveseat in the corner
but then Miriam from Bellingham appears.
She plops her fat ass down on the loveseat
not leaving me an inch.
Miriam was always such a nice girl
what happened to her during all these years?
Her eyes are black as the iron wheels of a night train
as if daring me to touch her loveseat.
She hasn’t cut her hair in decades.
She kicks my toolbag causing the tools to scatter.
I gather them up.
I don’t know how to use them
but it is important that they stay together in the green bag
and it is important that I carry them.
May you die a painful and bitter death, I think,
then I leave her there alone on the loveseat
feeling puny and unduly put-upon
by life’s preposterous developments.
The Strange Day
I’m working at the old bar.
The place is dead,
silent as a monastery.
I’ve got it ship-shape.
I wander around on the dance floor with my bar rag
with nothing to do.
I step out the front door.
The sidewalks and streets are empty too
except for one solitary girl walking toward me.
As she gets closer she says,
I’ve never been in this bar is it nice?
Yes do you want to come in?
Ok, she says, maybe for a minute.
I hold the door for her.
She walks in and says,
Where is everybody?
I say, I don’t know, it’s a strange day.
She sits down at the bar and I go behind it.
Do you want a beer?
Maybe just one, she says.
There is only one beer tap.
The tap handle is a big white ball with nothing written on it.
I fill a glass and set it in front of her.
She is young and pretty and her hair is messed from the wind.
That’s good, she says taking a sip,
What’s it called?
I don’t know, I say.
She looks around at the neon and the pool table.
So this is what it’s like inside, she says.
I notice the telephone is off the hook,
put it to my ear and hear a rushing sound that chills me.
I slam it back into its cradle.
When I turn around she is gone.
Her glass sits empty
but for a golden puddle in the bottom
like a melted coin in Charon’s palm.
The Second Me
I sit in a house that is not my own.
I have to ask permission even to use the bathroom.
I decide to leave.
I gather up my few belongings
which are still too many to fit in my pockets.
I wear no shirt and open a closet.
There are too many shirts hanging and I can’t choose.
I flip the shirts like records in an old juke box.
In the mirror on the door I see the second me
and feel the unimaginable touch of time.
I enter another room
which is empty.
The walls are painted in abstract art
and white stars on the ceiling
like bird shit in an inverted world.
It strikes me as incredibly pretentious.
Look at me, I say, I’m a room with art on my walls,
as I dance a comic dance.
Look at me, I say,
I have stars painted on my ceiling.
A famous comedian appears on the other side of the room
laughing at my routine.
This is confirmation of my existence.
I feel vindicated and a drip of pride
as if I have asked for help and been given it,
as if by not taking the artist seriously
I have communed with the divine.
The famous comedian leaves the room
like smoke through a hole in the ceiling.
I am alone again.
I turn off the light
and make my bed in the darkness.
I am a student at an academy of higher learning.
I have this buddy who is 4 stories tall.
Everybody calls him Shorty Shorticum
and asks him how the weather
is up there on Olympus.
He’s understandably self-conscious.
He’s stuck outside all the time
but unlike Diogenes it’s not by choice.
The joke is he needs a shrink.
His heart is as big as the rock of Sisyphus.
He has a crush on a cheerleader
and wants to go to a toga party because she’ll be there.
Naturally at the party the girl is flirting
with some astonishingly uncerebral laceration
who thinks he’s Adonis.
Later my tall friend is depressed.
They won’t even let him play on the basketball team
and gave him a lecture on fairness.
I tell him other people’s opinions are out of his control,
the only thing that can hurt him
is his own mind.
In order to prove it I eat a handful of terra firma
and tell him it tastes like peanut butter crumble.
I suggest he read Epictetus
to adjust himself to the divine order.
He tells me Epictetus picked a peck
of pickled peppers.
He wipes his tears with a bedsheet and we both laugh
sitting on a hill outside the town gates
as the sun comes up indifferent as fate
and seismic as a sophomore’s gluteus maximus.
He’s really a sweet boy
and that’s the truth
if you would open your eyes and see it.
I am born on an island in a blue sea.
I have a happy and innocent childhood.
I meet a girl on an adjacent island.
I swim to her every night.
I look down and see carved into the sea floor
thousands of figure eights beneath the calm blue waters.
Years later I move to the big city on the mainland
and find work in a restaurant.
Then the war begins with the space aliens.
One night we are in the weeds.
A starfighter comes to the door looking beat up and terrified.
I ask him how many in his party
and he says five hundred and fifty thousand.
We are not prepared for that.
Battling space aliens builds an appetite.
Every one of them wants the number eight on the menu,
a meat dish which takes forever to make.
The cook is furious,
throws his rag down and walks out.
No philosophy has taught us how to deal with this malarky.
I follow the cook through a cratered landscape
pleading with him not to abandon me.
The night sky is crisscrossed with flares,
explosions and lasers in figure eights
as huge chunks of metal fall to earth
plastering the humble villages,
walloping the community gardens.
I look into the window of a cottage,
see my mother and grandmother and wife
sitting with their arms folded.
Their sour faces anger me
as if all this has been done simply to inconvenience them.
They are tired of waiting for life
to give them what they want.
Join the club.
I miss the island where I was born.
I miss my first love and how I swam
in graceful figure eights in the calm blue sea.
Mather Schneider's poetry and prose have been published in many places. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.