June 23, 2021

Mather Schneider

MY FIFTEENTH YEAR

I remember the schools
of dead carp on the riverbank, 

the bonfires, the first booze 
and the first smoke

rolling through me like buffalo.
I remember the novelty 

of let-downs, the tilt 
of my reflection,

which I looked for everywhere. 
I remember the way a friend forgave 

his father and mother,
how we were told to smile 

for pictures, the murder in our eyes
when we were betrayed

or thought we were betrayed,
the stabbing green shoots 

of new emotions. I remember growth spurts 
and how my genitalia 

ruled the timid logic of my brain
like a little general with a red face

and a tight grip. 
I remember snickering at suicides,

rolling my eyes at old age
and at what I considered stupid and banal,

which was almost everything
except the future 

and strange foreign places.
I remember thinking 

the world was mine
and that I would live

as no one ever had lived before, 
and as no one ever would live again.

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021

__________

Mather Schneider: “Sitting around one day during the quarantine and our ridiculous times, memories of my high school days came back to me, when we hung out on the Illinois River among the washed up dead fish drinking Mad Dog and trying to get laid. The poem came out almost fully formed, as they say, unlike human beings. I remember even back then I thought we were living in an absurd society, reading Camus and ready to tackle the world. Now here I am, 50 years old, wishing I was 15 again.”

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December 19, 2020

Mather Schneider

COUNTY

I was in jail for a month.
I was amazed at how much fun
my fellow inmates could have.
Once a week we were marched down to a room
the size of half a basketball court
and ordered to exercise.
There was a basketball backboard
painted on the wall, but no hoop
and no ball. One time
the inmates started playing football
with 20 socks rolled up together
and soon they were having such a good time
that the guards ordered everyone
to surrender their socks.

I remember the stupid, pulpy hatred
on the faces of those guards
as if we were the worst
possible waste of human life.
I wanted to kill them, honestly,
but what bothered me most
was that no one else did.

Instead of getting angry
they just started
playing soccer
with their rubber slippers.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007

__________

Mather Schneider: “I don’t like trying to come up with something clever for these things. I write poetry and prose when there is something I want to put down. I don’t like writing for the hell of it. I’m a cab driver here in Tucson. My favorite desert animal is the javelina, which looks just like a little pig.” (webs)

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January 14, 2019

Mather Schneider

SUICIDE LANE

Yesterday on Grant Road I got behind a 4Runner SUV, blue-gray, dirty, maybe ten years old. It was going slow in the fast lane. Rush hour. I finally got a gap in the slow lane and put my blinker on to pass it. Then the fucker went into the slow lane right in front of me, blocked me again! Shit fire! All the cars in the fast lane poured through like wasps through a knot-hole. 

In a mile I finally got a gap in the fast lane and jumped back in there and passed the 4Runner. I glanced over: a woman driving, putting her make-up on, smearing it all around her face, oblivious to the chaos around her, blessed with natural blinders. Good Lord Almighty! 

Then today I got on Grant Road again, like a moron, and I swear to God I found myself behind the very SAME 4Runner. Tucson is a city of a million people. An indifferent universe my fat, white, hairy ass! She was again going 10 mph below the limit. When I managed to get past her, I looked over and this time she was eating something out of a paper sack. 

My soul. She was eating my soul. 

She was enjoying it, and would not turn her head to meet my stare.

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018

__________

Mather Schneider: “Tucson had the last of its ‘suicide lanes’ eradicated in the early 2000s, but as a cab driver it always seemed somewhat suicidal to even be on the road, as it seems suicidal to partake in almost any part of our civilized system. I am no longer driving a cab but I still have those days and those thoughts that the world is eating me alive, and that the absurdity of life is intensified by the absurdity of human society. Tim said this poem made them laugh, which makes me happy.” (web)

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March 13, 2018

Mather Schneider

HOT IRON

She uses a flat hot iron
to straighten her hair.
It has a porcelain handle
and burning platypus jaws
and each morning she gets up
and plugs it in the wall.
You can smell it getting hot.
Her hair is a gorgeous blue black
Mexican mane, but her ex
slapped her face
told her she was ugly
and her hair was too curly
every day until it stuck.
It’s a delicate operation:
to change who you are
without burning your scalp.
It’s been eleven years
since she’s seen him, calls
another country home now
but she still gets up
and plugs in that hot iron
every morning. It’s ready
when your spit sizzles.

from A Bag of Hands
2017 Rattle Chapbook Prize Selection

__________

Mather Schneider: “I don’t like trying to come up with something clever for these things. I write poetry and prose when there is something I want to put down. I don’t like writing for the hell of it. My favorite desert animal is the javelina, which looks just like a little pig.” (web)

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December 30, 2016

Mather Schneider

OUR MORNING TRAIN

My wife and I get up at 3 o’clock in the morning
and get ready for work,
drive in together.
She drops me off at the taxi yard
and then she goes to work at
McDonald’s.

It is dark in the morning and the streets
are mostly empty
at that time
and we are both tired
and feeling put-upon by
life, sipping our
coffee.

Along Aviation Highway
there are the train tracks
and each morning we look for the light
of the single eye of the train
coming through.
When we see the train we are both
happier somehow.

“There’s the train,” my wife says,
“Your favorite, now you won’t
be sad.”

“MY favorite?” I say. “It’s YOUR
favorite, you just don’t want to
admit it, the train makes you
all warm inside.”

“No,” she says, “not me, I am just happy
for you because I can see the light
in your eyes when you see
the train.”

“Oh, no,” I say. “You love that train,
Que niña!”

“Mira,” she says, “There’s the trenecito!”

The “little train” she calls it
though it’s not little at all, it’s huge,
bigger than life, deadly,
going somewhere.

“There’s your trenecito!” I say, “Aren’t you
glad?”

And we go on and on and it is
funny
because the truth is we both feel
better when we see that train.
Maybe that train is a symbol of somewhere else
we would like to be
a better life or future
for us.

The things that train
has seen, maybe that train is destined for some
beach somewhere
in Mazatlan or
Kino Bay or San Carlos and maybe
we both think about
that
sitting on a beach so far away
from this American drudgery, these small weak
creatures we feel
ourselves to be, this train that goes
through our hearts
always heading in the opposite direction
and with such surety to its movement
and pride in its horn.

It is probably all of these things
and none of these things
exactly.
Maybe it is just seeing a bit of life
moving at this ungodly hour
besides us
knowing that there are other poor shmucks
awake and working
when the normal human being
wants to be asleep.

Whatever it is, each morning
we look for that train

and when it is not there
we are both a little quieter

before that big
empty space.

from Rattle #53, Fall 2016

__________

Mather Schneider: “I am a cab driver who writes poems. For many years my wife and I would get up together and drive in to work and I got a few good poems out of those commutes. The symbol of the train, which calls out to everyone I think, and the tenderness of two people who love each other in what is often a dark lonely world are what made this poem come to life.” (web)

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April 13, 2015

Mather Schneider

THE ROOFERS

She always wanted me
to get the roof fixed.
It leaked for years.

They came today
got right to work, I had to love that sense
of purpose.
I watched them for a while then felt like a fool
and came inside,
listened to the boots walking
all over my world,
the house shaking like a war
for hours,
me down here in my bunker
dust falling from the ceiling
and them up there
in the open
fearless,
balanced like little G.I. Joe dolls
on the edge of a bathtub
filled with hot tar, the hot tar

they mopped onto the surface
like heaven under
a black light
the stink of it, the nasty stink of it.

By late afternoon it quieted down.
I heard them laughing, and one guy
sweeping up my patio
like he owned the place, like some filthy
shopkeeper, whistling
a child’s tune

and when they drove their huge truck away
they didn’t even say goodbye.

I came outside
leaned my ladder against the house
and climbed up,
peeking my head up like a survivor
looking onto a quiet sunset
over a battlefield

and I thought,
it looks pretty good, but what
do I know

and I thought, a 4 followed
by 3 zeros

and I thought,
she still isn’t coming back

and I thought
now it will probably never fucking rain
again.

from Rattle #46, Winter 2014

__________

Mather Schneider: “I write poetry because I’m too lazy to write prose.” (web)

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October 27, 2014

Mather Schneider

FREE-FORM BOLERO

We eat nopalitos
for lunch
pruned from our hard yard

and we love the afternoon away
both of us hunter
both of us prey

then sleep.

I dream about pueblos
with names of women
and a smoky cantina with flowered curtains
and ironwood tables
polished by a million brown elbows.

The floor fan blows the hair on my legs
whispers chicken skin goodbyes
to my sweat
and as the heat rises with the finale of April
I am at peace with what will come:

wormy compost of May
foul-smelling hat
sunburned deeds
mesquite syrup and cactus jelly
sealed in jars like preserved lust

the throat-burning flames of bacanora June
sour stains of July
lime and onion tears
of August

the desert stretched out like an endless
mockery of self-importance.

Funneled into the triumph
of now

the sun floats down
into the other
a popped balloon at a gala ball

and as I wake up
it’s like I’m face to face
with the prettiest girl
at the last dance of the world

and she’s looking at me
like she just woke up too.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

__________

Mather Schneider: “Well, I tried growing broccoli in our desert yard and that didn’t work, then realized that we could eat the prickly pear cactus that grew naturally right there in front. You prune the soft young pads, skin off the spines, boil them or fry them with salt and chili sauce or whatever you want, and there you go. This, combined with a nice siesta on a day off from work with the woman you love, is more than enough for me.”
(website)

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