poems by Mather Schneider

The Jags

They had “his & her” Jaguars.
Hers was purple, his was yellow.
They used to come into the cheap family restaurant
where I was a waiter.
They came in every Sunday
just when it was getting weedy
and request me.
They were fifty or sixty years old.
She was of Mexican heritage,
short hair, like her head was dipped in ink.
He was white and bald
and had liver spots.
Sometimes they arrived in the yellow Jag,
sometimes the purple,
but they always parked
in the handicapped parking place
right up front,
even though neither of them was handicapped.
They were the same with the food
as they were with everything else:
never happy.
This is just to say I hated their impossible to please
snob asses,
and every smile I gave them
was fake
and I’m glad I don’t have to see them anymore
or listen to them talk
about their brains and money.
In those days I hated myself
and they fed upon that.
I remember I rode my bicycle to work
all the way from Craycroft and
Twenty Second Street.
It had one speed
and was puppy shit
green.

Working On My Birthday

Many times good cheer
seems to be simply a symptom of good physical health,
but that doesn’t explain all the healthy
mean-hearted pricks in the world,
and it doesn’t explain the cheer and vitality
of Shannon, who I drive to the doctor
in my cab.  Shannon is thirty nine years old
and blind.  She was born four months premature
because her mother was a crack-head.
The doctors didn’t give her
a year.  She’s got Layla, her loyal
yellow lab, like a child no one else
can pat on the head.
Shannon walks slowly and crookedly
because of poor bone development
and her hair is thin and her skin
is a pearl diver’s nightmare.   
She doesn’t wear sunglasses
just keeps her eyes closed
like unopened clams.
She was born so small they could see her heart
beating through her blue translucent skin,
and immediately the man-made light blinded her unformed
fresh-from-the-womb retinas
like new shaved excelsior thrown
on a tire fire.
It’s been uphill from there.
We are the same age, Shannon and I, but my life
has been much easier than hers
and I admire her
and realize I am not as wise
or as cheerful
in the face of troubling things.

After Talking To An Old Friend On The Phone

The utter futility of what you thought of
as friendship
is like a lopsided bubble
in your brain,
your heart like a water balloon
glutted with bad blood
and chucked to the sidewalk.
You glug the talk
and feel the years
glued to the side of your head
and know the best thing about a telephone
is no face with it.
You’re forty and your circulation stops
in your hand as you hold the phone
to one sweaty ear
then the other.
Sometimes the utter futility
of everything loved
comes down on you
like a dump truck of sand
soaked with ocean,
with history
like harpoon rain,
and all you have afterwards
is what thrashes at your feet
that you have to bend over
and club
in the head.

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