Mather Schneider

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Artwork by Gene McCormick

The Swelling

I wake up with swollen lipsĀ 
like I’ve been fermenting in the dunes for a week
cheeks also red and bloated.
At the ER my wife and I stew
for 3 hours
my face growing more grotesque by the minute.
The nurse yells at a man
who complains about the wait-time:
“If someone comes in with chest pains
they are the priority, SIR!”
People keep coming in saying
“I got chest pains”
like they’ve all been there before.
I mumble to my wife,
Let’s go.
We go to a Fast Med place, fill
out more forms.
Not much wait.
The doctor walks in.
Holy shit! he says when he sees my face.
I can’t smile,
it’s too tight and numb.
He tells me my blood pressure is high
and asks me if I ate anything unusual.
Some sausage last night.
That was probably it, he says,
some strange seasoning
your body reacted to.
That’s why, he says, I only eat Hillshire Farms,
you can trust Hillshire quality
they have good standards.
He prepares a shot of epinephrine.
Got a butt cheek preference?
No, either is fine.
Bend over, he says, then the sisterly
kiss of the needle.
he gives me a script
for tiny steroid pills.
The swelling had nothing to do with the booze
I tell my wife.
She buys vegetables
and fruit at the store
and we swear we’ll start eating better
and take better care of ourselves.
The next morning, I look
almost normal
and though I try not to
I start to drink again.
My wife is angry
but the swelling in my knuckles
which I didn’t mention to the doctor
goes down with the booze
and the dread that almost always flows up into my throat
which I never mention to my wife
goes down with the booze
and I feel better
even though I know she’s worried
the tiny pills will fail
and fears the face she might wake up
to one morning
will not turn to kiss her
or move at all.


Mather Schneider has been published in many high and low places since 1994. He has 4 full length books and a chapbook, A Bag of Hands, which placed runner-up in the 2017 Rattle poetry chapbook competition. He was a taxi driver for many years in Tucson, Arizona and now lives in Hermosillo, Mexico, where he is unemployed.