M.A. Schaffner – 5 poems

Received Wisdom

 

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.

 

🍃

 

 Value

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.

 

🍃

 

 Invisible Wing

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.

 

🍃

 

 Annual Report

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 ShenandoahPrairie SchoonerAgni, and elsewhere — most recently in Former PeopleRaintown 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.

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