Didn’t we have a time that decade we don’t
quite remember or agree on? You know,
the one with that weird dance, or was it song?
A buzzard never changes style, nor do squirrels.
That’s why we call them both inferior
as we study them on our way to work.
Whoa there, fella. Row that leaky boat ashore
and come in out of the rain for a drink.
We need to recall which era it was.
Our people were here before the Indians,
supping on codfish and mastodon pie,
chipping beautiful spear points and losing them.
It’s all in the epic we learned in school
and then recited by heart. Or maybe
none of that happened. Or maybe just some.
We’ll have the cookies till the drugs kick in.
Your organs aren’t failing, just dropping off
into a state resembling work to rule
or whatever we do in lieu of caring.
Already have insurance? Not enough
to live forever unless you have faith
or a related disorder. Funny,
but people burned or butchered each other
just for the ratings. In time we grew up
into commercial metastases,
a kind of consumerist zoo. And today
the king offers his horse for freezer space
and a place in the country where the walls
enclose a ceremonial golf course, lakes
with seasonal fish, and a club house filled
with peers and medicinal beverages.
Almost a life, it takes his mind off death.
One definition of street had become
a community of shopping carts leading
to a cluster of depots and barracks
of the Grand Army of Consumption, which
promised ongoing ultimate victory
ultimately fueled primarily by
the fantasy that it was possible –
life as an unending tipsy orgasm
with production devolved to Alberecht
and his Third World dwarves. We’re so beautiful,
the films made in our praise are infinite,
though only a minute long, and billboards
greet us with gifts from every building filled
with our twins. They simulate work as we
text them from the neighboring block. It works
only so far as we don’t, then it falls
like a hawk who has forgotten to fly
and doesn’t know it yet, but loves to dive.
Civic Dedication: Lessons From The Lincoln Conspiracy
Not as buyers, but with ideas we keep
the future of the republic secure.
Let’s not, but say that our fierce rivalry
has implications beyond breakfast foods.
Notice how we mature – from sippy cups
to morning take-out beverages with names
evocative of foreign vacations
on ever less sleep because time presses.
Everything is an obvious casualty
of having traded species for product,
and the latest hour of decision looms
like an appointment to have one’s teeth cleaned.
Each franchise leader goes to market with
a “radical” proposal. Each network proclaims
a belief in people in the abstract.
I believe in me as an abstraction,
not a sentiment but a strategy
for surviving the inevitable storm,
for calibrating hope and affection:
not what Booth said, nor Boston Corbett did.
An air of righteousness unjustified
by the underlying contribution,
like masses for those who’ve already died —
no matter how often the name comes up
this is about the organization
and its loyal staff, starting at the top
and ending not far below. It’s a law,
not of nature but of information
pertinent to most managers who draw
little lines from labeled box to hollow square
with steadily less consideration
for whoever might be working there,
though often praising their contributions
in speeches that thud like clods on coffins.
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.