Mather Schneider



Cake

In the Retina-Tearing Sun

A black beetle crawls in circles on the pavement
while three kittens
torture it.
It writhes and rears
with big mean pincers
not knowing what calico gods have
torn down upon him.
One by one they swipe their little
killer paws
eyes big and built
to light upon things.
They don’t know real hunger
yet,
that will come later.
They sniff the beetle when it doesn’t move anymore
and then the bravest one
leans down and bites it.
There is a crunch like shell candy
and a squirt of goo.
The kitten shakes his head and rubs his mouth
with his paw
like a child taking his first sip
of whisky
and they all run away
through a hole in the fence
to mother’s milk,
where they will knead and knead
their happiness
into her fur.

My Girl’s Got a Fever

Life is too small
and fragile to be fair
and existence does not balance
except on a scale
so vast
our minds can’t manage it.

Somehow we endure
banality
as if it was the most
exciting thing around

in the great rock polisher
of society
and death so neat and perfect
we hardly hear it coming
like a train in
sneakers.

The people who endure the most
do not moan
about boredom, depression,
phantom pain
or neurosis

but instead have the loudest
laughter
and the best
songs.

We have been robbed of the earth and caught
in the net of the
city,
a city that binds
while it suckles,

but in our dreams and silent moments
we are still just poor,
simple
people.

And when my girl’s got a
fever
it breaks
my heart.

Blank and Empty and Perfect

I was a 16 year old grunt
at Glen Oak Park.
One time,
we poured new sidewalks
and the boss made me stay late
to protect the slow-drying concrete
from vandals.

It was fall and cold
in Peoria, Illinois
and I sat my frosty ass
on a pink metal pony
bolted to the playground
watching cement dry,

watching cement dry.
Nobody came to destroy it,
no kids
with the stick-ends of their hearts,
no stoned scratchers
of hexagrams,
no pigeon-toed
midnight dancers.
Everything was blank, empty and
perfect,
and it was my job
to keep it that way.

And I would have succeeded, too,
maybe even to this day,
if Amy Webb hadn’t brought me
hot chocolate
in that yellow sweater
and if that god
damned stray dog
hadn’t bolted through the night.

Paedar O’Brien

He’s fifty two and looks like he’s been dead
for a month.
He’s got a teardrop tattoo under his left eye
long black shoe-polish hair
a powder puff face
and hands white and cracked
as old divinity.

He lives out in the desert
in a clapboard shack
and I pick him up in my cab
for the state-paid ride to the doctor.
Narcotic tales

float from the cotton
graveyard of his mouth:
two women in his bed every night,
never losing a fist fight,
dream-jobs and dream-bikes,
outrunning cops,
until the last Harley threw him 50 meters

and broke him like a gingersnap.
That was 10 years ago
and now he’s only afraid
of one thing:
running out of morphine.
The monthly visit to the doctor
is his penance.
He knows exactly which route I should take
and how much time is needed
and if I change anything
he jumps out

of his skin.
After he sees the doctor
I take him and his sweaty
script to the pharmacy
and then finally he is on

his way home.
He is calmer as the morphine tablets
make love in his stomach
and dissolve hot
like pop candy.
In a glossy slur he tells me
he once killed a man
and his ancestors were a war tribe
in ancient Ireland
before

he drifts off
like a Cheshire in the sun.
I drive in the silence.
It really is a beautiful day
to be alive.

Mather Schneider was born in 1970 in Peoria, Illinois. He’s lived in Arkansas and Washington state and now is a desert rat cab driver in Tucson, Arizona. He fell in love with the desert and the culture of the southwest, married a Mexican woman and is learning Spanish. He has two full length books of poetry and has written a book of stories that is looking for a publisher. His prose and poetry have appeared in hundreds of magazines since 1993, including New York Quarterly, Nimrod, Rattle, River Styx, Hanging Loose, Atlanta Review, Nerve Cowboy, Chiron Review, American Dissident and My Favorite Bullet. He has no college degree or pets.

Mather Schneider’s Blog

Mather Schneider at NYQ Books

Mather Schneider at Amazon




  • Terrific poetry.  

  • Terrific poetry.

  • Art too!

  • Kathleen Kirk

    Thanks, Donna!  I agree.  Have always loved Mather Schneider’s poems, and to pair them with the gorgeous, raw, transparent street art of Cake is a real thrill!

  • Susan C

    Wow… Completely awesome work!  I love Mather’s portraits and enjoy his poetry too.  Maybe it’s because I can totally relate to him geographically speaking.  (from Aurora, IL, lived in Denver, Phoenix and Los Angeles… fell in love with the desert and a handsome Mexican American man!) 

  • Thanks Susan, but I was wondering what “portraits” you are talking about.

  • I have revisited and still I like it!