W.D. Snodgrass



Our neighbor’s slim rag doll of a daughter (not,
we’re told, of his own getting) breathed out: "You’ve got
so many cookbooks!" – each eye a startled O
as it skimmed our kitchen shelves – "And so
much food!" Later, straight-faced, she said her mother
lives now with her new boyfriend in another
county. Hard up for farm jobs, her "Dad" has to drive
60 miles to the factory, getting up at 5
AM to leave them where his folks watch after them
until he gets back home – sometimes 5 PM.

We go for long walks every evening. If we pass
their trailer, they all tumble out shouting, "Snodgrass!
Snodgrass!" The slim, straight-faced one is thought slow
by her teachers. There’s much she’d do well not to know.
The cool offspring of our city friends are driven
to special schools, sports dates, parties, given
phones, computers, cars, the insatiate stuff
that will guarantee they can’t ever get enough.
Our neighbors’ less keen hungers and kinder drives
make sure they’ll make nothing of their lives but lives.

APR, Vol. 32, #3, May/June 2003, pp 7-8.


-- for McGraw and Marvell

You live bits of the first Big Bang
Burning to turn each other on
As ships blink bright Morse through the murk,
Or Yin winks to rekindle Yang,
Let crusted contact points be drawn
To contact points and close the circuit.

You specks in my prospecting pan,
Flecks in Night's lapis lazuli,
Midsummer's flickering Xmas strings
Whose random constellations can
Alter all sky-signs' augury
By linking dots to outline Things,

I am the mower, Snodgrass, known
Through fields and meadows run to seed,
Undertended and overgrown
With ragweed, sneezewort and neglect
Where moths lay eggs and fireflies breed --
You are the harvest I collect.

Forgive the finger rings we children
Made from your torsos' fading brilliance;
Join in my Mason jar, my glass
That lucidates dark worlds when filled
With your good kith and kin whose millions
Might excite, once, critical mass.

I've loafed all summer at my lawn
Chirping songs bawdy and improper;
Now that my chords are halfway gone,
Leaving me like some dumb weedhopper
Whose half-cracked brain may never mend,
Let axon still sing out to dendrite.

Enter my net and neural network,
You sparks that arc old synapses;
Though I've grown stiff and gray and can't learn
New songs or finger the same fretwork,
You wouldn't leave Diogenes'
Ghost out here looking for his lantern?

Democracy (Special issue of Spread), April 2003, Seattle, WA.



TV’s handpuppets don’t ooze out one word
These days about Iraq’s oil. That can be taken
For granted. Anyone tuned-in will have heard
Strongarm democracy brings home the bacon.
Once we’ve inflicted freedom and secured
Men’s good will, we’ll sleep sound, dream right, then wake

To heaped up platters. Nobody’s been forbidden
To mention things that nobody dares think –
That’s honor among thieves. Still, once hidden,
Loot can be sluiced off, quicker than a wink.
And where’s your take gone then? Best check your eyelids:
Sly thieves and robber barons never blink.

Slick puppet masters have to keep track who’s
Made a killing and who’s been double-crossed
To bury it on the dark side of the news,
The brain’s recycle bin. True recall might cost
Friends, income, or a life too good to lose.
Analysts sometimes ask how decent Germans,
Facing the sudden scarcity of Jews,
Could maintain ignorance of the Holocaust;
None mentions just how many we let squirm
And twist at rope’s end for their predetermined,
Pre-emptive wars. But then, of course, they lost.

The Post-Standard
(Syracuse, NY), p. E-2
April 8, 2004.