# Hunger and Lust
In Rancho Grande a couple sits in a corner with a severely retarded child,
a girl who could be three or ten, I can’t tell. At first
I thought the man was carrying an infant.
The girl is in one of those infant car seats, partly covered in blankets.
It’s in such moments I know what it means to be able to swab sauce
from a plate with a flour tortilla, to be able to rise and walk out the door,
everything, all the things you can do, since you can read this
and find a lover and sit in tree shade and kiss and maybe enjoy doing that
the whole afternoon. The preciousness of life—opening a can of peaches
with a can opener or filling the gas tank of whatever you might drive,
any of it. People say, to be happy to live a full life, think of others,
help others. To live a full life think of yourself, truly think of yourself.
Be selfish. I care first about myself. The great mystery:
opening a can of peaches or kissing under an elm, or reading a newspaper,
the really extraordinary lies in the ordinary. It’s only my thought,
and not some absolute truth. Absolute truth: there’s a severely retarded child
in a corner with two adults, presumably her parents. Absolute truth
of our five Senses. Nothing from the Bible, the Torah, the U.S. Constitution.
Put yourself first, if others call you self-centered so what.
But my thought is if you’re truly putting yourself first, respecting
yourself, loving yourself, you are, in a sense, the center of the universe,
connected to where you are, to whom you are with, and what.
So, in saying, Nothing means more than my life you’re saying, my daughter’s
life means more, also the girl wrapped in blankets in the corner.
1924. In a parked coupe a lit cigarette
falls in folds of Helen Hathaway’s dress,
antebellum pleats and ruffles catch fire,
a day later she dies. Schaeffer wonders
if the live ash was from her cigarette
or someone else’s. Her mother said Helen
never smoked, but in Is Love Everything?
she smokes lounging on pillows in bed.
Schaeffer sees the black coupe in shade
of an oak, set back on a hill of grass
in San Antonio. Only moments before,
on the set of Southern Charm Helen
with her dark good looks sipped a julep
and flirted with her beau on a verandah.
When he left, she took from her bosom
a torrid note that begins Dearest Love.
Under the dress the hoopskirt Helen
wears makes the dress flare at her hips.
The top is frills, ruffles, her death dress.
One live ash…no more promenading,
batting her lashes at a beau. Her body
a human torch flung from that coupe
into the hill of grass. Schaeffer wonders
Was she conscious her last hours?
# Schaeffer Is Next
The next vape, the next corner
To turn, the next day, he drove
To Maidenrock. It was a Saturday.
Schaeffer thinks of the adjective,
Then, next, please, please added
To soften the blow that one is next,
Whether one likes it or not. Schaeffer
Thinks, I’m next. He thinks:
The next vampire film, the next
Trip to Walmart, the next bite
Of the apple, the next diver
To leap from the plane and pull
The parachute string to soften the fall.
Don’t sit under the apple tree
With anyone else but Kim Kardashian West
Don’t sit under the apple tree
With anyone but Derek Jeter
With anyone but Taylor Swift
With anyone but a descendent of Clyde
Barrow, with anyone whose surname
Don’t do it, don’t sit there with
Casey Anthony, Susan Smith
Or Charles Manson
The next vape, the next hero
The next vampire, the next banquet
The next moment, who knows
Anything might happen:
A river might flood,
A tree might catch on fire.
There’s the Rita H angle
How she was glamorous in her voice
Her eyes, her long wavy red hair
Her spangled dress that hugged her hips
Glamorous in her walk in how she moved
Back and forth on stage
Under the spotlight in Gilda.
Then, spin the wheel of time forward,
Say, twenty years and find her
Alone in a room. Dementia
Has taken over.
She is cared for, incontinent
Can’t wipe herself or wash her
Once lovely hair. Oh,
The waking nightmare bird
Perches on her shoulder
That was once bare and aflame
With lust, all of her.
# Schaeffer Speaking
The blister in the palm of my hand found its voice,
the voice of the rosebush in the wind.
I tried to make it into another Charlie McCarthy
but it wouldn’t sit on my knee.
I tried to make it stand in a choir but it wouldn’t stand still
or wear the blue rode the choir wore.
Then I tried to make it a detective’s questioning voice,
then the voice of a paramour speaking on a lake bank
to his love whose back is turned to him.
I tried to make it the voice of a man trying to remember
his neighbor’s voice, a wife and a mother.
I didn’t like the blister’s voice.
I liked the voice of a man who worked in a tobacco shop
and the voice of a man who couldn’t live with
and couldn’t live without his mother.
Then the blister, having found its voice,
assumed the voice of a terrier, then the voice of a footfall
snapping a twig, and then the voice of a radio
personality who was rich all because of his voice.
I wanted the blister to speak directly to me.
It recited “The Whitsun Weddings.”
Then it assumed the cry of an infant,
then a man crying in a graveyard.