Steven Schutzman

Yogi and Bogey

The world was a lot better
with Yogi Berra in it
and Bogey too
however homely however tough
Guys who told it like it was
and had a code of honor
They had solid coins back then
let me tell you
heavy ones
with pictures of god for heads
and great beasts for tails
so when you tossed them
it meant something momentous
like it was your lucky day
the day you joined the circus
lit out west
or met your fiancé in the funny papers
or maybe your unlucky day
when you couldn’t catch a break
and crossed paths with a black cat
got your walking papers
or ran afoul of the law
Red-faced cops walked the beat
Punks smoked in the alleys
Detectives in hotel lobbies
flipping silver dollars
Fat guys laughed at themselves
Dames had their day and died out
like thorny rose bushes losing their petals
over-wintering as crackpots in puffy bathrobes
Read all about it
We woke up from the war
all a dream
Strong silent types
nightmares as private
as flasks in sashed raincoats
Calendar pages flying off in the wind
Banner headlines for quadruplets
Look up in the sky
The horizon edged closer
The ocean was mighty
not cut down to size like now
Twinkies lasted forever
toasters a lifetime
and Wonder bread about an hour
but it was enough
Your pediatrician chain-smoked Chesterfields
Eat your carrots
People are starving in Europe
Africa hadn’t been discovered
China was where you dug a hole to
Amusement parks were amusing
Your uncle was allowed to spank you
Men whistled and chased their hats in the wind
I would love to chase my hat in the wind
but I haven’t found just the right hat yet
one worth chasing
one that expresses who I am
like hats did back then
Now hats have words on them but then
your wordless hat and its jaunty tilt
were the outward expression
of your character
Wearing your hat on your head
showed who you were better than
wearing your heart on your sleeve
which you could do with a smirk
fingers crossed
and go to sleep fitfully
with your brain exposed to the ether
and Souza marches blasting out your eyeballs
People knew how to laugh
everyone agreed on what was funny
and which guy was a swell guy to have around
and which guy was too down in the mouth
It was okay to be merely clever
This was before the word d epressed was invented
by Holden Caulfield
and the word fuck by Lenny Bruce
Ted Williams and John Wayne towered
like colossi over the suspension bridges
Gifts consisted of flowers candy and rings
and every significant thing
happened in the backseat of a taxicab
The kiss was life’s highpoint
but children weren’t yet conceived by sex
that I know for sure
because the very idea
of my parents…never mind
Babes were tomatoes
nice girls and good girls and fast girls
girls all over you like a cheap suit
God I love that
I’d trade everything I’ve ever said
for that one line
Not like Faulkner
who said too much
just right
or Hemingway who said too little
just right
Cartoon characters snored with saws
got hit on the head with hammers
stared with arrows
blasted anger out their ears
and cursed with tommy guns
Gosh and heck and phooey
Air raid sirens didn’t mean it
and teenagers didn’t either
The soundtrack blared trumpet fanfares
drippy serenades
and piano runs signifying traffic
Bogey knew bad times were coming
because mankind was corrupt to its bones
but he remained loyal in the face of it
and humanly flappable
You could make him flap
Yogi kept grinning his sly grin
when he made fun of himself
and his tools of ignorance
his dumpy body and dumpy uniform
and perfectly ugly face
He was dumb and smart at the same time
like this poem
Everyone loved him
and knew their lines

The Race


It’s me against a tree, a dog and an ant
one lap around
each in our own lane of time
When the gun sounds I take off
with the dog running easily beside me
though he soon starts wandering
out of his lane to smell things
and lift his leg over them
which should be disqualifying
in my humble opinion
The dog is not worried
about falling behind
He can catch up to me
any time he wants
and every once in a while
at a trot up on his toes
he lopes ahead and looks back
with a question over his shoulder
about why I am trying so hard
when I have no chance
The ant meanwhile
is joined by millions of ants
with the strategy of making a chain
around the track
one wins and they all win
one loses and they all lose
as they sing
their belief in each other
according to their kind
The tree stays put naturally
because it can’t move
according to me at least
but at the finish line
the tree is announced as the winner
because it is said at the medal ceremony
that fast is slow
and slow is fast
and the judges were certain
the tree had completed the lap
in the blink of an eye


I am not unhappy about being unhappy
It seems only right and just and worth it
that it should be this way at this point
I embrace my unhappiness with open eyes
No big deal
The losses in
waiting to be tallied
Not going to fight it
like a man in a riptide
and make things worse
The trick is not to panic
Am I really going to dispute
with myself over my own calm

A moment sitting on the deck is
a moment not being
in any of the horrible places
in the news these days
A moment of incomprehensible birdsong
and incomprehensible peace

That cloud off by itself
looks lonely but is it really
It’s never going to rain
It’s alone and not that kind of cloud
floating by at liberty
without a thought in its head
going nowhere fast like someone I know

I admire those weeds that save themselves
by resembling raspberry leaves
that shriek mightily when they are
recognized as weeds and pulled from the ground
What are they shrieking
“What about art What about art”

I always imagined
a fly was distressed and confused
buzzing against the window
but now I think it is in a state of inquiry
because flies were used to
millions of years of no windows
Light was just something you flew through
and didn’t land on
and now you are one of the pioneers
trying to figure this new thing out
to be the Einstein of flies
and declare that it is not reality
just perception worth buzzing over

If you can’t escape you escape into the mind
like a plant to the light
and the photosynthesis of dreaming


The way I go about things these days
is so indefinite so meandering
like water going lazily around rocks
I might as well be four years old
on the floor of my bedroom
surrounded by what happens
to be at hand without intention
a mess according to some
falling into a daydream
or a story taking place
where the sky meets the sea
I create my own sound effects
free from striving and achievement
nothing to show for it
no need to prove anything to anyone
no idea even that I was wasting time
I was nothing but time
looking to spend itself
Amazing how I don’t feel bad about it
unmoored and adrift
about not grabbing hold of the years I have left
or providing proof I have lived
I am the lucky one washed up on an island
examining the wreckage
surrounded by broken things
before he seeks shelter
never to tell about it
That there is no proof is proof enough to get through the night

Steven Schutzman is a fiction writer, poet and playwright whose work has appeared in such places as Gargoyle, The Pushcart Prize, Alaska Quarterly Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, TriQuarterly, and Night Picnic among many others. He’s a seven-time winner of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Grant Award.  Website –