song of a cane flute by Donna J. Snyder in I Am Not a Silent Poet

Source: song of a cane flute by Donna J. Snyder published at I Am Not a Silent Poet

…we are the children of bridges, bridges made from our backs, our tears, our sacrifices,
and from all the ones who never made it across with us…. Junot Díaz

low tones solid as her father’s sweet bread
high notes sing the vibrato of son jarocho
of a woman near tears but speaking still
words deep within the memory of cells

the cells are theirs
the lengua is theirs not mine
I can’t presume to speak their truth
yet their indomitable vigor lifts me up
fills with me with a sense of solidarity
a feeling of common purpose
and feelings need not be truth
but are still facts

the strength of la gente bears me up
out of the inundation of hate
their strength through persecution
through the suppression of truth
their unbroken backs carry me
across the chasm seen between us
a bridge between fear and resolution
inspiring me to be a revolution
this bridge called their backs

when I slip and fall I see shoulders and arms
rise up from where knocked to the ground
and those hands reach out to steady me
stand me on my own feet and take my hand
the gift of strength from one heart to another
a kind word from one tongue to another
the gift of memories not mine but shared

like the voice of a cane flute
calling out to the stars

 

Read at the Librotraficantes event in El Paso, Texas on June 22, 2017

The back of the book. . . Susan Hawthorne

Susan Hawthorne’s comment on the back of The Tongue Has Its Secrets

“Here is a poet who tongues the language of birds, delves into the minds of sybils, explores connections with animals. She tests the boundaries of nothingness and somethingness. Donna Snyder’s poems are like Nüshu: secrets cast skywards like a cipher for those who know, to read.”

– Susan Hawthorne, poet and author of Lupa and Lamb

 

cover art

Loring Wirbel’s review of The Tongue Has Its Secrets

Red Fez review of The Tongue Has Its Secrets

Perhaps a Southwestern state of mind is a prerequisite for a full appreciation of the Sandia Mountains and Chaco Canyon landscapes that populate Donna Snyder’s latest collection of poems, The Tongue Has Its Secrets. Yet a stranger to these parts can approximate a high-desert way of knowing, in the same way that a male reader may discern, if only as a tourist, the invocation of ghosts from a woman’s way of seeing, the subject at the heart of Snyder’s latest work.

Dea tacita  

Lara’s tongue severed by the sky for indiscretion

Love led her on a spiral path deep into the laurel

She gave birth to little gods but was forever silent

 

She lingers at cross roads

Tends the dead

 

What is evident from the first poems is that Snyder avoids the fear of modern vernacular that seems to occupy many poets who visit natural sites, hoping to evoke ancient gods. We could all be judicious with our language while trying for the perfect Mary Oliver setting, but any ancient god worth a prayer won’t mind the occasional reference to a pop song or video game. Snyder’s language is at once formal and casual, giving works like ‘Prepare to Ululate’ surprising depth.

 

Blue norther’

In the North Texas Panhandle, southbound truckers 

blast down Hwy 83, headed to where the wind’s not

from the north and not called blue.

Winds and storm outside become Valkyries,

the concrete septic tank a magic stone.  Women 

warriors ride like furies across the frozen plain.

An Irish woman outruns a chariot,

gives birth to twins, 

lays a curse.

 

The wind takes my spirit in its arms and flees.

Mama lights the candle, locks the door. 

 

There are plenty of two-lane highway odes in this world paying homage to modern gods of transport, and plenty of chants that attempt to revive Anasazi imagery, but Snyder is rare in being able to meld the two. Poems such as ‘Blue Norther’ and ‘My Heart Makes Chorus with the Coyotes’ successfully bring the two worlds together with an impressive degree of success.

 

Snyder obviously takes the most time with the multi-stanza works spanning two or three pages that attempt to disentangle layers of spirituality. Sometimes, the longer poems are not as effective as the shorter, more direct works. ‘Bear Who Loves a Woman’ is an obvious exception to this rule, a complex and interwoven longer work that is one of the book’s highlights.

 

The collection ends with the tight and disciplined ‘Supplication,’ which seeks to call upon the right panoply of gods without a wasted syllable. Many of Snyder’s fans may find the poem a perfect summation and distillation of the entire collection. But even those of us more secularly grounded in cynicism will find the pair of poems near the book’s end, ‘The Truth of Vikings’ and ‘Aqua de mi sierra madreTM ‘ to provide just the right mix of breathless voice and raised eyebrow. In short, there’s a brand of salvation in The Tongue Has Its Secrets appropriate for just about any seeker.

 

The truth of Vikings

The music in her head makes her scared,

as if Vikings still brandished their blades 

from the decks of ships fierce as dragons.

Afloat in an ageless river, 

the leaves are chill flames.

Cold rains obscure the water’s source,

hiding it away like the secret of a woman’s 

aging body, rain, a woman’s sluggish heat.

She is apples and pears ripened 

in her own sweet skin.

Only the moon can match 

the luster of her opalescent belly.

Her mouth makes shadows. Her hair 

a burning bush. 

Her fingers a doorway,

iconic as a religious artifact.  She is on route

to the end of being on the back of a red swan,

on the way to nothingness made tolerable 

by ritual and fire.

 

Through the wind, she hears the shriek

of disconsolate women who no longer 

believe love will save them from sorrow.

There is no home now, they wail.

There is no safe place.

Death tastes like winter flowers.

She knows this because she knows 

things she is not supposed to know.

She stands so close she can hear 

warriors tell each other secrets.

The truth is that neither love nor death 

diminishes you.  The way to truth 

is a life suffered, a drunken waltz.

She stands so close her howl is lost 

in the roar of music inside her head.

She is wordless before the fact of Vikings,

 

truth found in a harsh yellow light.

 

My Red Fez review of new book by Tamara Albanna

https://www.redfez.net/redfez/embed/workembed.php?p=undefined&i=undefined   Read on Red Fez | Read Later

Shakespeare’s Sister Revisited: A Circle of Female Lineage by Mary Sharratt

Inspiring and well written by Mary Sharrat

Vanessa Bell’s painting of her sister, Virginia Woolf

What do groundbreaking 17th century poet, Aemilia Bassano Lanier, and 20th century feminist icon, Virginia Woolf, have in common? A lot actually.

In her 1929 essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” Woolf imagines the tragedy of Shakespeare’s brilliant sister, Judith, barred from the grammar school because of her sex and forced to hide her writing from her family. To escape a forced marriage to a man she hates, she runs away to London to seek her fortune in the theatre, only to end up pregnant, abandoned, and destitute. Out of despair, she kills herself.

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The cruelest month by Donna Snyder

The cruelest month
In memory of Jesús Guzmán
April winds rage in with a renegade posse of dust,
weather’s bad boys intent on stealing a body’s air.
And one cruel April, Jesús was killed on Easter Monday.
Day after resurrection Sunday, he fell from Jacob’s Ladder.
It was the sudden stop that killed him.
Undoubtedly ¡Ay cabrón! frozen on his lips when he hit the ground,
a tiny blood red rose quivering alone in the wind-blasted dirt.
Jesús killed, an angel fallen from the heavens.
Declared dead on the scene, mad scientists shocked him
until his heart resumed its beat, like all fallen angels
determined to return to lost paradise.
Declared dead at the scene on Easter Monday.
Declared dead in ICU on Tuesday afternoon.
Then on the third day they took away his tubes and wires,
and his heart beat for another hour.

He fought Miss Death until they declared him dead
all over again.
No resurrection,
except in the memories of children he taught to be poets,
or the minds of workers who crossed the borders
from there to here.
He crossed over from this life to the next one,
neither from here nor from over there.
And the mesas crashed onto the freeway like waves.
The spring night bled teardrops like falling stars
because he’s still cheated of air.
Cheated of words.
Cheated of life.
The world cheated of him and his corazón, too soon.
Jesús was killed on Easter Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday.
His heart tan fuerte it took three times to kill him.

His death scene punctuated by the street’s beat
and the lullabies of the bereft.
Now the world is so cold and lonely in April,
when the winds carry the spirits of dead vatos to remind us
just how cruel a month can really be.

Published in Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal (Chimbarazu Press, New York 2014)