“Ninety percent of everything is crap” –
thought for the day on imagined samplers
intended to teach our youth not virtue
but the inevitability of despair.
Let’s say it doesn’t matter and move on
to the next plane of existence. Up there
this truth would only apply to poetry
and musical compositions, leaving
affairs of the heart free of foolishness,
at least past a certain sobering age.
But my age has sobered me all along
even as I resisted with rotten jokes.
No wiser and knowing nothing I move
from year to year of portraying an adult,
then open a door and see her smiling
in all innocence, maybe, though intent
on more, not knowing my fat stock of guile
and bad example. It changes nothing
but the clown suit and fright wig I put on
and when the grease paint smile becomes a frown.
Except The Beating Part
Your lover can’t be your lifeguard, your Christ,
your doctor or full time nurse. Not your whore,
your stud, your sympathetic furniture,
your bumper sticker or flag. Your lover
can’t lift you out of adolescence
or stay the steps of death. Your lover can’t
make demons disappear and angels sing
in praise of your nonexistent virtue.
Your lover might pretend to anything,
whether you wish or not – spend your money,
toy with your desire, drive you to madness,
embarrass you, or view you with disgust,
as long as they stay, and share what life gives,
grudgingly or beautifully together.
The Lamp And The Bat
She knew what I thought before I thought it –
sweet spectral smile and I’m an old buffoon
losing his wisdom before he got it
on a cool night, blue mist covering the moon.
Anyone can laugh and shake their head,
tell me to act my age as if that means
beyond a certain digit we’re all dead,
and have no right to love or hope or dream.
I see the gulf that keeps us both in line –
one that leads uphill, the other down,
but age improves the taste of more than wine
and though I cannot touch I won’t disown
the note of understanding in her voice,
the sudden pang in which I had no choice..
News From Near And Far
While I was watching they cut off his head.
A little later he fell in the street,
shot multiple times, as the spokesman said.
A drone observed the scene from overhead.
The victim’s phone produced this recording.
And it’s summer yet, flowers so pretty;
bees hum, birds whistle, children run and sing.
Government forces shelling the city
bring intimations of an early fall.
It gets so bright we want to turn away,
go back to school, watch movies in the mall.
Fatal accidents occur throughout the day.
Some fires you can outrun, but not them all.
The world will leave you with an oil slicked pall.
Your cocktails glitter untouched in the tray.
It seems too soon. You hardly know the way.
We met in a dark and intimate world
and later saw ourselves betrayed by day,
with daily needs to deal with and the sun
highlighting every blemish from the one
horizon to the next, and next beyond.
First seen, then seen too much, I disappear
into a curio cabinet of memories –
a romantic shade turned to dust catcher,
my transient ideal become collector
jumbling me into a drawer of random junk.
And there I will wait to see her again
as she passes with a newer treasure
into a newer room, carefully set
with all the objects dearest to her taste,
my life pending on the uncertain chance
she someday senses something else is missing.
M. A. Schaffner has had poems published in Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, Agni, and elsewhere — most recently in Former People, Raintown Review, and Rock River Review. Long-ago-published books include the poetry collection The Good Opinion of Squirrels and the novel War Boys. Schaffner spends most days in Arlington, Virginia juggling a laptop, smart phone, percussion caps, pugs, and a Gillott 404.