“The Mermaid of South Mark Road” by Mather Schneider

Mather Schneider


Her doublewide is plopped down in the desert
like a shipwreck
on the moon. She swats off
a pitbull,
paddles through the oily creosote
of her cratered yard
and bends
into my cab.
It looks like someone took an ice pick
to the front of her neck
which puckered when it healed
as if it wants a kiss.
Her voice comes straight
from her gut, a scissored
hiss, blended
with a phlegmy gurgle, horrible
to hear, and to try to
She was married once.
They used to go fishing together
back in Illinois
but he’s gone now breathing
someone else’s air
and there is very little water
She tried going back home a few years ago
and ended up fishing alone
on her daddy’s old pond
with its green scummy skin
and not even catching a fucking catfish
while the gnats swarmed to her second mouth
and crawled inside her.
She thought if she fell in
she’d sink
like a stone angel.
That would probably have been best,
she says to me,
looking out the cab window at all the sand
of an ocean dead
for centuries
and rubbing her thin
dry arms.

from Rattle #38, Winter 2012


Mather Schneider: “I meet these people in the course of my job driving a cab. Some of them make me angry, some of them make me sick, some of them fill me with pity. The most interesting ones are a mixture, and I try to write about them. I am present in the poem, but I try to make myself and my presence secondary. There are so many lost and suffering people living in crags and shadows out here in the desert. You never know what you find when you turn over a rock.” (web)

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