Two Poems by Jeff Schiff

Two Poems

By Jeff Schiff

Charming Misery

In the sidewalk dropaway cobblestone
In the flicker-light photo-op

foolish turn
turn & bolt bowel-clench

In the gripworn blueblack
waistline peekaboo

teenage guards for hire
In the fusty-lidded
foggy-jarred chile marmalades

and bodega countertop
left to fester
pyramided eggs

In the recalled fourth-hand
bribe-inspected chicken busses

In the roof-gathered cistern-stored
crock-dripped sold as pure
bottled spring waters

In the thrusthand
In the huddled wherevers

In the hunkered whenevers
In the slant-eyed rheumy
In those plying their best

desperately need help
double-jointed pantomimes


Ode to Third World Garbage

Oh to belt-swing from the open backs
of Lowes sold-for-scrap
box vans

collecting and sorting
neighborhood chaff
to know wretchedness

from what remains
and yet benefit by it
gringo rejects

blender bases
curtain rods
lidded jars that fetch

market barter
plaited garlic  bags of camote
real centavos in the exchange

Oh to believe
if it’s not on the ground
it’s not garbage

 to make mortar of chicharrón
and yucca snack bags
cramming them between

ruined stone
to hang Gallo and Quetzalteca empties
from bulging rebar

and exposed stanchions
and provisional sale signs
and public art

to hurl to pitch to heave sacks
of what no longer delights
no longer functions

from cars from busses from trucks
hairpinning their way
from careless to could care less

Jeff Schiff is the author of That hum to go by (Mammoth Books, 2012), Mixed Diction, Burro Heart, The Rats of Patzcuaro, The Homily of Infinitude, and Anywhere in this Country. His work has appeared internationally in more than eighty periodicals, including The Alembic, Grand Street, The Ohio Review, Poet & Critic, The Louisville Review, Tendril, Pembroke Magazine, Carolina Review, Chicago Review, Hawaii Review, Southern Humanities Review, River City, Indiana Review, Willow Springs,and The Southwest Review. He has been a professor in the Department of English and Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago since 1987.


The following has been provided by the poet:

"Charming Misery" and "Ode to Third World Garbage" sit in a manuscript entitled Charming. Misery. Composed entirely in Antigua, GuatemalaTaken as a quilted whole, book-length poem, choppy breath, and/or obsessive study…, the collection allows a single speaker to document, problematize, and frankly fetishize the paradoxical allure of and his repulsion with complex communities to which he does not belong.

Two of the larger question sets that arose during the project:

1.       Is poetic documentation self-aggrandizing theft, necessary homage, good will corrective, or?

2.       Can one accurately represent in poetry? Need one accurately represent?