‘ Two Poems’ by Tom Snarsky

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In the quiet water of subtidal habitats,

you have enough breathing room to misread
subtidal as suicidal, your brain predicting
what it sees now will be like
what you’ve been googling, low in your cove
of grayblue feeling. All the arts,
all of them, have led us to this ice. You
mix paints for the sea slush
and you’re out of green—you squeeze
the tube and it gives you nothing, the sides
touching through a thin layer
of dried paint, and instead of giving up
you leverage colorblindness as an asset
and mix in red instead, so the little
cove you’re painting starts to look like clay
so rich and malleable you could almost eat it.

Escape Rope

The truck’s mud flaps say STARGATE
& I’ve never felt closer to the earth, to the

Basic conceit of burial—i.e. if you go down
Far enough, if you live enough to have

Friends to bury you, then maybe when you get
Down there, after a little time has passed

The gates will open & there will be
Sandboxes full of stars for you to play with

You can make castles you can tear them down
You can shepherd the toy truck across

The bridge over the moat to safety
Its mud flaps still emblazoned

but faultlessly clean

Tom Snarsky teaches mathematics at Malden High School in Malden, Massachusetts, USA.

‘Four Poems’ by Tom Snarsky

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Untitled

if you’re young and smart
and reading this then maybe
go read something else

The Vice

The song I play at’s never coming home
to rest / or otherwise rescind its light
from forests blanched by moonbeams overhead,
indifferent / to the coming of the poem.
A melody like wandering at night
& harmonies like what the angel said
would happen / if I musicked out of turn
or dared to lift my body from the bed.
So humbled, saved, & with a heart contrite,
I’ll sing atop the bowers as they burn
bright red — /

Secret Track: Courtney Love in Alaska

With a sonnet of dollars left in my wallet
I return home to finish reading The
Women Troubadours by Magda Bogin

In the book one of the poets writes
I can tell you truly [/] that I’ve never been
without desire (—Tibors, probably

the earliest of the women troubadours)
and I wondered if that was how
Courtney Love felt after Straight to Hell:

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I don’t know almost anything about
Courtney Love but this paragraph is just
amazing, like the great women court

poets spurning meaningless flattery
in favor of real love, or as Castelloza said,
God knows I should have had my fill of song —

The marble archways of feeling
give way to a cool, hard sound, like the
water at Thunder Bird Falls in Anchorage

crashing into Eklutna Lake, the high rapids
deigning to converge with the low like a
lady of undeniable rank giving the time of day

to some lowly would-be knight, or Court-
ney Love stripping for the fishermen —
if this poem lacks a nuanced class analysis

it’s because it traffics in the fantasy of
royal love, the kind that sand demonstrates
toward other sand to keep their castle

intact, or the thing that clay needs in order
to surrender its malleability and dry,
become brittle, hence able to be broken

Death in the Middle Ages

Confusingly, people didn’t die
in the Middle Ages. They just got
sadder and sadder until sudden
-ly, one day, they met Christ
in a private space that would be
especially meaningful to them.
Then Christ would ask them,
while holding out his hands in
two level, downturned fists,
“In which of my two hands do
You believe the secret to eternal
Life lies?” There was no secret
answer to this in Scripture, as
a few to whom Christ posed this
question believed; he wasn’t
looking for some sub rosa code,
or a half-remembered quotation
from Matthew. Instead he just
waited for the person he was
asking to pick a hand, and
when they did he would lower
the other fist and reply, “Death
Is a challenge each of us meets
In our own way, according to
Our lives and histories.” At this
point honey would begin to drip
from his mouth and his tear
ducts as he spoke. “Your way
Of dealing with death is equally
Valid to anyone else’s, including
My own. Before I open my hand,
I want to be absolutely sure you
Understand this.” Most people,
a little transfixed by the honey,
simply nodded at this point.
Then Christ would turn his hand
over and, before he would be
able to open his fist, the person
would suddenly realize why
they were meeting Christ in this
exact spot. They would make
eye contact with him and smile,
sometimes tearfully, and he
would smile back. Then he’d
put his fist down and offer
instead an open hand to the
person, saying slowly and
clearly, “Thank you for being
With me on this ahistorical
Afternoon.” The sound of what
could be called distant thunder
would beckon in the distance.
Wordlessly, the person meeting
Christ would take his hand and
just start running. They’d run as
fast as they could, with Christ
never more than half a step
behind. They’d be running so
fast they’d forget where they
were and where they had
started from, so by the time
they began to wonder or tire
the only thing left to follow
was the thunder, which after a
while seemed directionless, almost
like it was coming from everywhere.

‘Hurrying There’ & ‘Entirely Too Much’ by Tom Snarsky

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Hurrying There

I had a diamond reader read my life
out loud by a fire to no one. She said
that all the fluorescent nonsense I’d made
wouldn’t last. I agreed and asked her her
opinion on crystals: what can matter
be when arranged, regularly, with care?

“If we could build a house with many rooms
that all looked approximately the same
I’m not convinced we would. Instead I think
we’d set fire to the foundation and sit
in the resulting pit to talk about
all that has happened in our history,
its self-similar twists and (re)turns—
and we’d make it glow, softly, like plankton.”

Entirely Too Much

I am sitting

in a dream

house full

of objects

tin prince

little spoon

dollhouse

alleyway

& tree bark

lining the

floor—some

times phil

osophers

call us

“spacetime

worms” bc

we are

extended

shapes in

four di

mensions

I think

that’s true

& I am a

leaky worm

my five

hearts work

so hard to

love you

with a flesh

y sweetness

like rhubarb

& I want no

more than

for you

to pass yr

opalescent

evenings

with me

here

for all

our days

which is

to say I

want en

tirely

too much

& just

enough

Tom Snarsky teaches mathematics at Malden High School in Malden, Massachusetts, USA.

 

Four Poems by Tom Snarsky

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Cranberrying

after Sylvia Plath & Dolores O’Riordan

It’s the same old theme
Since nineteen-sixteen,
When Amy Lowell released
Men, Women, & Ghosts,
Including the fiery line
Her music-kindled love
Crashed on him there.
One hundred & one years
Later it is happening

Again, this time with
An originary feeling
Like bog water—still, &
Studded with blood-
Rusted beads—a sweet
Ocean dream. There is no
Sound on these open seas
& my hands aren’t cold,
They’re just waiting

For a tree to split in half
& spew its resinous secrets
All over. The stone bleeds
In your palm so I am looking
For a hint in your face
That this century hasn’t killed
You, that you still feel love
As a collision-driven song—
Tart, red, possible, & enough.

 

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