Cheryl Snell – poems
You fluttered in your black coat
at step’s edge, dancing to the music
of some impulsive circuitry.
My brain would not get the point.
Before I could pull you back,
you had fallen, hard.
At the black border of sleep
there is a moment of dislocation,
a falling through of senses.
The jolt back to recognizable space
is the urge to stand upright.
One winter night, my turn came
amid a chorus of Oh’s you could see
in the cold. The black ice tripped me
and I began the long slow kneeling.
I know what it feels like, to float thickly down
and this wasn’t it. You pulled me up
as I continued in my skid and I heard the little girl say:
I wonder what she’s praying for, this late at night.
- First appeared in New Millenium Writings, 2001
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(Read by James Brush)
Just before the frenzy, seagulls wheel overhead
screeching like evangels. The off-season waits,
lake un-rippled, hymeneal.
A marina man with a gleaming torso
rolls out on a dolley. Pools of grease ooze
like violence beneath him. His eyes slide over me;
his smelling-salt sweat makes me wonder
where his mouth has been.
Time thickens men like him, their tongues
of dry ice. Their sons stand in oil rainbows now,
watching me cast off into my wild intentions
They watch my wake wag its wet tail.
The perfume of the sagging summer quivers the air.
Unfurling like desire on the distant shore, wood smoke rises.
A diver leaps into the baptism below the liquid pulse
and I know it’s too late for second thoughts.
- First appeared in Petroglyph, 2001
At thirteen, you lean in, lingering
up against the dwarfing pear tree.
Practice your cool with yellowing fingers.
Perfect your lonely, your hard blue stare.
Later, when you can’t make the machine shut up,
vapor from your coffee and the charred blue curl
welcomes the scrambling of the molecules,
the winking air’s humming corruption.
Didn’t you feel it, couldn’t you hear the cries?
How slowly disaster meanders by on centipede feet.
The disease flares up like burnt paper butterflies.
The scales have fallen, you can see time from here.
You fumble for some tilted meaning: the future
was a chain of perfect rings, each one unseen.
They spend their life dissolving, careless,
in the still young air.
-First appeared in Comstock Review, 1999
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Widescreen news: a bruised mosaic
deranges your features, insinuates a grin.
The gelled-up host whispers words you could chew.
He rummages through your brain as if it were a purse.
Your skin maps the route to nowhere
Your organs sag another inch by inch.
Once, your blood, unambushed by love,
barreled merrily along. We were the paying public
and knew our place: You fluttered the tiny dancer
high above and none of us dared meet your gaze.
Some moments have no clock and the floating girl
had her own agenda: when she scrambled the cross of you
against her bird’s shoulders, she aimed straight
for the darkening edge of stage.
The non-believers screamed, boomeranged a sound
like thunder gone all jack-knifed. She scattered us
in waves across the shocking sea and made us cry
for the single second before, as you must now,
sitting shackled to the dark, watching looks deceive,
seeing logic fail.
-First appeared in Antietam Review, 1999
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We bear down hard on our enfeebled,
our altered ones, even as we avert our eyes
from the spectacle of their personal devastation—
his stringy biceps as he tugs on a swim-cap
her once girlish gait listing like a shipwreck.
In our dreams we hear the snap
of latex gloves as we hand over
the moment of our indecision. At dawn
we set about straightening the house,
closing closet doors on the skeleton of memory.
The brain’s wiring unravels backward. We lose first
what was foremost. So when your aging brother strides out,
eccentric, sway-backed as a soldier mocking himself, seeking
persistently exciting inputs that will charge him up enough
to take one more run at you, you stand defenseless
on the doorstep, waving your something red.
- First appeared in The Listening Eye, 2002
Cheryl Snell is the author of Prisoner’s Dilemma (Lopside Press Chapbook Competition winner) and five other collections of poetry. Her most recent novel, Shiva’s Arms (Writer’s Lair Books) reflects her interest in the conflation of the mortal and immortal, and her collaboration with expressionist painter Janet Snell can be followed on the sisters’ blog Scattered Light (http://snellsisters.blogspot.com). Cheryl’s poetry has appeared in many online and print journals, lately in The Curator, Olentangy Review, PANK, egg, Deep Water Literary Journal, and Mixitini Matrix. She has had work chosen for a Best of the Net Anthology and more recently had a poem anthologized in The Centrifugal Eye’s Fifth Anniversary Anthology. Her new chapbook of poems, Live through This will be published in 2014. Cheryl lives in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC with her husband, where she plays a mean classical piano.