Two Poems by M.A. Schaffner

M.A. Schaffner

So Morbid, So What?


Okay it’s not death but the long prelude
of appointments, tests, and troubling results,
followed by additional procedures.
It’s called a crab because it moves sideways
and picks almost delicately with its claws
where instruments can see, if not respond,
until the final stage of tearing out
what weakness it finds, which is everywhere.

Here’s more knowledge than anyone can use,
more pain than we find comfortable treating.
There’s nothing to do but tell the old stories
from a mythic land called Health and look away
to the children’s drawings and happy cards
that hint that we’ll be briefly remembered.


In the end you’ll beg for another day
no matter how messed up the world may seem
or how hard you find it to walk or breathe.
The ward may stink and the windows open
only on asphalt damp with melting snow
with a few sullen crows in blackened trees,
but you’ll want those hours to redeem your life—
for one last kiss or an apology.

Today crocuses and daffodils mix
a clichéd display with genuine hope
for a year to heal all previous loss.
You might as well look; no other moment
exists like this one, always endangered
by memory or fear, equally useless.

Varieties of Religious Experience

Quetzal acoustics in the stone stairwell
etched in wax for a time, the codex inked
in sap and blood mixed with gemstone pigments
impossible to find in today’s market.
Do you believe? she asks. I recognize
the word, sure, but the concept when it’s thumped
sounds well past its prime, and echoed by worms.
The digitized version of Bosch likewise
descends to mere decor while I listen
again to the fluttering cry of the kite,
like a pigeon’s but with so many edges
the cylinder whines from the intake of air,
sputters through the first goose, then simply chokes,
and all the way down one person cries while others
scream or grasp tightly the armrests, looking
away from the windows to the in-flight film,
headsets dangling idly in their faces.

M.A. Schaffner has work recently published or forthcoming in The Hollins Critic, Magma Poetry, The Tulane Review, Gargoyle, and Skirmish. Other writings include the poetry collection The Good Opinion of Squirrels (Word Works, 1997), and the novel War Boys (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2002). He used to work as a civil servant, but now serves civil pugs.

Photo credit: Moonlightway,

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