Adam Scheffler

Other People’s Pain & Charade
January 22, 2020 Scheffler Adam

Other People’s Pain


“And was it not amusing of the philosopher Bion to say about that king who was tearing his hair for grief, ‘Does that man think that baldness relieves grief?’” –Montaigne

Remember her eating pad thai and grimacing
each time the noodle-bristles licked her
stomach ulcer

while you skipped across the
street, joyful on your pepcid fetchquest?

Or what of Marlene after the surgery last
week, giving little yelps from the living room
as the mirror-wince of dumb concern free
solod up your slick rock face?

Sometimes when you
press somebody to your chest, their body
becomes aquarium glass with little people
drowning on the other side of it, pressing
their suction cup lips in before they

disappear in a squid cloud of ink.
But sometimes you help just by being there,
impersonating the stove they want to
shove themselves inside, and you give them that –

saying, you’re the misunderstood witch,                   
and I’m the awful scheming children,                       
who want to steal your life’s work –
your house and all its brutal sweetness.







I was thinking of the sad
scentlessness of film,
of how everyone in that scene
from Charade
where they pass the orange
under their nuzzling chins –
is dead.

No wonder
the doctors keep ringing
us up as meat, covering us in the butcher
paper of gowns, when we keep
waking from the roulette dream
as a gnat prodded by the devil’s
tiniest pitchfork.

Who doesn’t
think deep down they’re the real
inflatable man, davening
and crumple-punching
the auto lot?

But sometimes having
a face and feet and bank account
and sorrow, feels like the way in
somewhere – like a hole you lower
your face into to have a partial
burial, or baptism in the gentle
amorality of earth.

Adam Scheffler grew up in California, received his MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and his PhD in English from Harvard. His first book of poems – A Dog’s Life – was selected by Denise Duhamel as the winner of the Jacar Press Poetry Book Contest. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Antioch Review, Rattle, North American Review, Verse Daily, and many other venues. He is currently a Preceptor in Harvard’s Expository Writing Program for which he teaches a course on Hell and the Underworld.