Poems by Ryan Snyder 2002 - 2004

Dammi, O Dio, che il cuore apra, gli occhi vedono senza giudizio, e abbia il coraggio per amare di nuovo. One day in Montalcino, I paced the guard’s walk atop the fortress and peered through arrow holes to roads that wound through Tuscan vineyards. Grey clouds pushed across the horizon, three raindrops tapped my shoulder, and I hid in the Brunello bar, where I ordered a glass and prayed in stanzas. An hour later, the waitress whispered Che bella over my shoulder, then brought a cappuccino and smiled. I turned to my journal, then back to her, still standing there, lip clenched in her teeth. È una farfalla she said, pointing to the cup, to the widespread wings of a cocoa butterfly sprinkled atop the froth.

Song of Extinction
The skylark fell from heaven, he succumbed to love’s sad satiety; the nightingale rode Bacchus’ chariot, with spirit numbed his music fled. The evening snow turned hail and sent the blackbird tumbling down; the raven, nevermore will he cry, “Nevermore.” The ovenbird, left speechless, flew away to find a land of voiceless song; as for the darkling thrush: he met the growing gloom. And with the winged ones now extinct, the black, black clouds begin their thunderous cadence, looming over we, who squabble back with, “Yack, yack, yack,” while memories of song-filled warriors crumble underneath the tombs of yore.

Window Shopping
Welcome to Amsterdam growls a dark man in a Caribbean accent as I saunter through hash-laden air. A banner above warns Pas op voor zakkenrollers in four languages. I pat my back pocket lump as scores of man-shadows lurch across the canal’s red hue – 50 euros for a suck-and-fuck! yells a twenty-something Brit, laughing, his friends digging into their pockets. A blonde teen, whose shaking hips can’t budge her concrete torso, grinds behind a pane of glass in a black-light white bikini. Flitting rapidly through the crowd, her wide brown eyes lock mine screaming Fuck me and Don’t touch in the same breath.

I Have Wasted My Life
In my dream, David Citino propped himself above the podium, his hands gripping its sides. He said, I have wasted my life, lying here in these sheets. I wrote the line in my notepad, turned to you and said, That’s a good line. You nodded then, like you nodded in bed, rubbing your nose against my shoulder, breath treading lightly on my skin. You wrapped your arm around my abdomen, as we snuggled beneath the feather-down. Outside, the neighbor scraped ice off his windshield, the sound of pen scratching paper. His muffler sputtered, car almost ready for its jaunt to work. My hand wiggled, clutching its imaginary Bic – I have wasted my life, lying here… I muttered. You cracked open your eyes, asked, What? in a rasped voice. I squeezed a fist of your thick black hair, kissed your forehead and climbed over you, skin brushing skin. I treaded the cold pine floor, down the hall to my desk, translated Pascoli’s Novembre and scribed these words. Here, so far away from you, I clack computer keys in frigid solitude. I have wasted my life.

Willowgate Hall, Harding Hospital
It’s 8 a.m. and teens form a line in front of the nurse, who hands out plastic cups of pills. Lithium for Chuck, who hides it under his tongue; later he’ll crush it and powder his nose. There’s a dent in the wall from his forehead, before men wrapped him in white and carried him to the padded room. CPZ for Brad, who’s killed thirty-seven, or forty-four, he can’t decide. He always stops lifting his pant leg, just when it nears the scar from the nine-millimeter. Christy sits at the cafeteria table, her finger hidden in her mouth, her back facing the therapists. She vomits Lucky Charms into a Dixie cup; blue moons and green clovers float to the top of the pink milk. Ken sips apple juice through a straw, stitches stretching four inches from his lips. Two days ago he kissed his dad’s sixteen-gauge; the bullet skipped off his teeth. Mandy asks, Do you think I’m sexy? her ribs the only bulges in her pink tank top. Mark humps his bed and moans, Danni, oh Danni, while she sleeps down the hall, murmuring No, Daddy no, into her pillow.

It’s Gonna Rain
Knocking the ball around with the boys, one missed and kicked my knee, which popped and swelled to twice its size. It hurts to walk, the way my shoulder aches lifting a child above my head, the way my wrists throb after turning up soil in the garden. My grandfather used to rub his wrists and say, There’s a storm comin’ in. He listened to his body the way Ojibuay listen to the earth, running their fingers across the grass at dawn to check for dew, or watching the red maple cup its leaves mid-afternoon. He’d turn towards the western sky, nostrils wide to test the air, wrinkles bunched on his forehead. And now, I see his face in the mirror, and reach for the tweezers, not ready for the hair crawling out of my nose, my ears, the skin overtaking my hair, those same lines gathering on my forehead. I used to count the rust spots on the back of his hands, and I know those spots will soon splotch my own hands, and it’ll be my turn to say –

Blessings to You, My Friend
Stepping off the tram I followed the indiscernible Dutch signs that took me to the middle of nowhere. Your slow purposeless meandering showed me you could afford the time to give directions to a disoriented person 4,000 miles from home. Your broken English and gentle eyes reassured me, comforted me. As we walked you talked about your life – Living all 82 years in Antwerp, the son that married and moved to Spain, your stint in that horrible war. Your silence told me about the wife you lost – I know, and I’m sorry. At every crosswalk you’d grab my hand, I didn’t know if it was for my protection or yours – but it didn’t matter, I’d take any comfort I could get. Here is where our path together ends you said, your eyes saying so much more staring back at me with a longing emptiness. You pointed to my path extending to the horizon, And sloughed over your shoulder at yours where both of us could see the destination. We embraced, and I didn’t want to leave that intimacy – Goodbye is so final,

and goodbye it was. Thank you for your help. Thank you for the moment. Blessings to you on your journey, my friend.

Le ombre
di Eugenio Montale

An old man sits on the Monterosso boardwalk bench, waves lap against the pebble beach below. His right hand grooves, mimicking the waves, as lyrics sing in his mind – stanzas of the sea’s eternal rhythm, verses of his past. Dusk approaches; birds become bats in the sky. He sees his shadow, stretched along the walk, and chuckles: Non è un’ombra – ma quella io sono. His hand stops, drops to his side. He turns to the waves, foam white as his hair, movement just like his own – falling with each advance, swallowed by the undertow. Every time, he reposed on the rock floor, mouth full of salt, beside closed mussel shells and cuttlefish bones – down so deep, no light could possibly reach.

Il vento strappa petali gialli del girasole, spargerli di terra. Ognuna è bruciato dal sale, avvizzito dalli soffi ovesti senza vita. Prego per un ronzìo lungo mentre il sole rosso cade nel mare. Il soltanto rumore è lo sciabordare delle barche nel porto. Tiro su un seme, e lo metto nel taschino. ***

The wind plucks yellow petals off the sunflower, strews them across the ground. Each one is parched by salt, withered from lifeless western breaths. I pray for a long drone as the rose sun descends into the sea. The only sound is the swashing of boats in the port. I pick up a seed, and place it in my pocket.

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