Three by


Mather Schneider








The four-legged metal laundry tank

with the hand-crank wringer


is better than the old washboard

but not much.


Just ask mom.

You can find her on Sundays


up to her elbows in underwear

rank as bottom-feeding


flatfish, or turning our filthy overalls

through the pinch-fisted rollers,


her tomato-peeling hands

raw, nails yellow and swirling


as after-water.  She’ll tell you

the truth, if you ask her


while she puts our limp

wet hides to billow


and dry between

the twin crosses.








I like to be in the woods in the evening

while mom and dad sit


on the picnic table

beneath the psycho-looking sycamore


after work is done,

in the thin line


between loathing each other

and snoring side by side,


in that barely breathable margin

of black cricket truce,


them drinking beer or wine,

the cherries of their cigarettes


like the distant torches of a search party

and me out in the trees


at that point

where I can hear their voices


but just a little bit farther

and I cannot, walking


that tight rope.








Dad trades a goat

and two bags of feed


for an army surplus Jeep

from a man with a wandering eye


and guineas in his kitchen.

I think it’s cool, like G.I. Joe


but mom says he is no longer a child.

He parks it in the west field


and then can’t get it started again,

spends the whole summer working on it


prone on a plywood slab

against the prickly pears


pounding his heels in the dirt.

Even when he crawls out


we look at his feet while he talks.

One day a drop of gas falls


into his ear to the drum

and he bellows as his skull


comes up hard against the manifold

before staggering to the barn


and crashing in like a drunk.

I hold on to the loft ladder


as mom takes his head in her lap

and pets him and hushes him.


She dribbles water from a cup 

into his ear, whispers it’ll


be ok…we’ll be all right…

promises she wants so bad


to come out sure and strong and true

but only choking 


as they break

like supper plates, like toys.









Mather Schneider’s poetry and prose have appeared in many places since 1994.  He has several books available and lives in Mexico. 



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