Two Poems

by M. A. Schaffner

End Stage Capitalism

The swollen husks of the population
cluster in theaters, squeeze into cars,
spend late nights on lap tops looking for love.

That’s what you get for affluence and loss,
with Jesus for a soul mate and models
thin enough to slip through the needle’s eye.

Ancient science fiction never dreamed this –
saucers grounded by our threadbare waist bands,
exploration stopped at the first buffet.

And none of us guessed how we’d normalize
what centuries before would call grotesque,
not seeing through the window that we’re stuck in.

Renoir’s Squirrel

As French officers make plans to escape
an escape-proof camp, one casually feeds
a squirrel in a bird cage – a small red squirrel
with tufted ears. Sciurus vulgaris.

Two years pass. Octave hands Lisette his glass
and points out a squirrel. She looks. Just beyond
her husband kisses his mistress. Lisette
doesn’t know it’s goodbye. It’s the same squirrel.

Five years later another squirrel, a pet,
dies in the clumsy grasp of its owner,
who named it for a famous general.
Again the same squirrel. But who keeps a squirrel

in a prison camp? How did it get there?
And what lens would bring the squirrel so close
but leave the Marquis at middle distance?
And the death? Perhaps the actor did die.

Seven’s old for a squirrel, even a star
of screen and stage, the stage being the world,
which they scamper across freely, neither
serving us as symbols, nor needing them.


M. A. Schaffner has had poems published in Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, Agni, and elsewhere — most recently in Raintown Review, and Fox Adoption Magazine. 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 Toshiba laptop and a Gillott 404.

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