Schaefer beer cans


Ode to a can of Schaefer beer

Campbell McGrath, AB’84

We would like to
express sincere
thanks to our
Schaefer customers
for their loyalty
and support.

It is brewed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
It knows its place.
It wears its heart on its sleeve
like a poem,
laid out like a poem
with weak line endings and questionable
closure. Its idiom
would not be unfamiliar
to a Soviet film director,
its emblem a stylized stalk
of bronzed wheat,
circlets of flowering hops
as sketched by a W.P.A. draftsman
for a post office mural in 1936.
It conjures a forgotten social contract
between consumers and producers,
a world of feudal fealty—
the corporation
is your friend, your loyalty
shall be rewarded—a vision
of benign paternalism
last seen in Father Knows Best
and agitprop depictions of Mao
sharing party wisdom with eager villagers,
bestowing avuncular unction.

It was once, the one
beer to have
when having more than one
slogan and message
outdated as giant ground sloths roaming
the forests of Nebraska,
as the ex-cheerleader
watching her toddler eat handfuls of sand
at the playground
considers the lost world of pompoms
and rah-rah-let’s-go-team
to be.
It has earned no lasting portion of glory.
It has eaten crow
and humble pie. Long before it was faded
by the sun it appeared
faded by the sun, gathering dust
in the corner
of the bodega or the county store,
cylindrical, handy, holsterable,
its modesty honestly
come by, possessing the courage
of its simple convictions
like the unsuspected gunfighter
emerging from the shadow
to defend the weak from tyranny.

And if we have moved forward,
Unmasking the designs of the regime
upon our fertile valley,
learning to litigate against the evil sheriff,
such knowledge has left a bitter taste
in our mouths,
and if this can of beer
deserves our attention
it is as a reminder of what it meant
to speak without hypocrisy,
to live unironically,
to be sincere.

Thin, rice-sweet, tasting of metal
and crisp water,
it is no worse than many,
and if it is not an elixir it might serve
as an occasional draft
of refreshment and self-knowledge.

It was established in the United States in 1842.
It contains 12 fl. oz.

Store in a cool place
and drink responsibly.

Campbell McGrath, AB’84, the author of nine poetry collections, has been a MacArthur-certified genius since 1999. A regular Core contributor, McGrath was interviewed in the Winter 2014 issue (“Eliot v. Whitman: Who’s to Blame?”).


Photography by Angel Xavier Viera-Vargas, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.