Rhythm & Mucous
by Mather Schneider
(Terror House Press, 2021)

These poems are serious and playful; bitter and sweet: visceral poems, sometimes painful, sometimes mordantly funny, told by an ironical everyman, cab driver, and husband living along the U.S./Mexican border, a hot land of casual cruelty and oftentimes blatant futility. Living with the lizards, beetles, cats, birds, and those others—the people—my God, the people! Who also inhabit the landscape: derelicts, dreamers, mental and physical cripples, refugees from life’s outre side—assorted dickheads—met in bars, coffee shops, streets, wherever…met as “fares” in our narrator’s cab; met and used, like the landscape, as material for poems—poems which, like all really good poems, make no statements, but are, in themselves, statements.

Call our everyman’s irony “cosmic”—where false hopes are often frustrated and mocked—a world view I am entirely simpatico with. A view conversant, as well, with the ludicrous and the absurd realities inherent to human existence. It is a jungle out there, even in the Sonora Desert.

The ending poems in this 100-page book are particularly exemplary examples of Schneider’s artistry. Poems that carry an ominous sense of inevitability (something like the mood that Malcolm Lowry, writing of Mexico, conjured in poetry and prose). During an eclipse of the sun, something “mysterious and dangerous” seems to be happening in the sky. Schneider writes: “the land loses its distinction and the colors dim/like a crepuscular perversion.” The narrator is on his way to see his wife, who, in the poem “Breathe the Damp,” is in hospital being treated for a failed pregnancy (I believe). That same night, the couple lie in bed in their house “sticky as flypaper” as “rain/tramples the tin roof” and a “merciless wind” blows, sounding like “the Devil blowing out his birthday candles…” The next poem, “Curtains”—used instead of doors, because doors are “too heavy and warp”—is about an end, death, as in “it is curtains,” or “the curtain falls,” for someone, ostensibly the wife (though there is ambiguity enough to make this an uncertain surmise). These are touching pieces, full of pathos, and a great ending for this collection of strong narrative poems that tell stories of life as it is for a poet writing from out his experience, and not from theoretical understanding. A rich experience it is too, including mucus and other unpalatable effluvium, ugliness as well as beauty, laughter as well as tears; a sweet fragrance mixes with the stench here, on these pages, just as in life, in a dry inhospitable landscape like that of Schneider’s poetry and everywhere else.

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