Wednesday Nov 29

SchefflerAdam Adam Scheffler’s first book, A Dog’s Life, was selected by Denise Duhamel as the winner of the Jacar Press-Full Length Poetry Book Contest and is forthcoming (fall, 2016). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, The Antioch Review, Rattle, North American Review, Sewanee Review, and many other journals. He is the winner of River Styx’s 2014 International Poetry Contest. He received his MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is currently working on finishing his PhD in English at Harvard.



Since we’re not married and
have been together so long
boyfriend and girlfriend is
starting to sound too hip, too sexy
for what we are, too Parisian—
like we take long strolls
on the Seine or make love in front
of mimes, like we tie our bodies
into balloon animals and float,
or ride the train under the
slimmest finger of ocean
to London, imagining Sherlock Holmes
hot on the trail of Moriarty
for the hundredth time too stupid
and obsessed to know his own
love for Watson if it hit him in the
face. They are partners, and I think it’s
time for us to steal their appellation
of dusty trusty hue that they stole
from Western Marlboro men
chewing tobacco and spitting
on cactuses, and not pronouncing
the “t,” as they moved
through the canyons, muscular
thighs draped over their horses.
We too journey side by side
on the trusty steeds of twin beds
or the single gigantic steed of a
California king, so my nighttime
imitations of a ninja won’t bother you,
so your thin form can be rolled up
like a cigarette in blankets
and be smoked by night
and the long plume of your dreams
can stay private. I love
how it’s all taken on faith,
the way day is partner to night,
or yesterday to today, knowing
no covenant keeps it all
together, no words stored
in a courthouse or promises made
before people who think love
is sealed by their getting drunk
for free, or by throwing rice on us
to plant in us a field we
we work all our lives—
I want you no sidekick or wife,
but choosing to be with me
and me with you day by day, stealthy
capable human partners planting
flags in a private happiness
without tiny sherpas of us
climbing to the top of a cake,
without the cake being sliced
into and floated out amidst a flock
of endless friends and relations
each jostling for the piece
with extra sugar—with the
frosting in which is written
congratulations and our names.

Love Poem for Lindsay in a Tornado Ten Years Ago

Since the woman I love, before I ever met her,
has only a locked closet and a walkman,
she blots out, as best she can, the siren’s
terrible keening with Whitney Houston’s
pre-drug-ravaged voice—the one Oprah
once called a “national treasure”—
and as the twister skips right down her street,
she avoids coats and brooms, kicks her limbs
up, shuffles her shoulders in a dance
so private I can’t stop imagining it.


This poem was written in spite of my
uncle Denny who sliced part of my ear once and farted
drunkenly wielding the tomato knife
whose juices slid across the countertop in their
messy, viscous, delicate archipelagoes of seeds,
and left me uninspired for years. I would like to
unthank the federal government and national culture
for its cheap vocabulary of the flesh.
The lights of the city for deafening the stars.
It’s true I learned a thing or two about
disappointment and to negotiate the labyrinth of
false expectations, yet really I would
have gotten this elsewhere and at a lower price.
I’d like to unthank several teachers
who think poetry is a fancy game to make them
feel fancy about themselves, and who sit
in lecture halls smirking, a chronically sour
expression like there is a tiny little homunculus
of themself perched on their lips. This poem
is definitely written in spite of the republican
party, and yet the liberal tone of NPR makes me
comatose as a Slurpee as they monologue
each morning through the lists of the numberless dead.
This poem is written in spite of you, Coach Smithy
with your watery eyes quoting us
Rudyard Kipling “the strength of the wolf
is the pack” as basketball shoes squelched and
echoed along the glistening gym floors
and one flung the ball like one’s own vomited up
ego stone to stroke the patchy wisdom-beard of the net.
Written in spite of several thankless hours
of meaningless conversation with a businessman
from Tulsa who wouldn’t shut up
and let me read or stop telling me his salary
on the flight from Denver. If poems are little
grapes one tries to grow inside one’s head,
he smooshed a few of them, and lit a few of them
like firecrackers pulverized into a void
of never-attempted existence leaving me
numb as novocaine. Does one grow to love
one’s hatreds? To love or hate one’s hands?
Perhaps, but not the numbing, not the laughter
at the peglegged man on the street. I’d like to unthank
the apes who kept me up last night and left
me this splitting headache through which I peer
like an undersea vessel looking for squirmy squids.
And I’d like to unthank panda bears for needing
to eat and sleep 23 hours a day and rolling over
on their young crushing them to death
and proving to me nature’s idiocy and to
distrust the inviolability of love.