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.
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)
The day the artist died
In memory of Marío Colín
Today the artist died.
Drummers drum the dancers’ steps,
firm and heavy beneath the trees.
The dancers dance a prayer.
A black dove leaves a feather at my back door,
another on my front step.
The sky paints itself a heaven.
The Queen of Heaven
fades and crumbles on adobe walls,
her flesh cracked and weathered
by the unrelenting sun.
Without the artist to create her,
without his hands,
stained blue and gold,
how will She know herself in all her glory?
How will She love herself
without his devotion? Each stroke of his brush
another prayer. Each star placed deliberately
on her cloak by his knowing touch.
Her double chin an invocation.
Her sorrowful eyes, a lament.
Each precise shade he adds, a request,
“Pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.”
How will She know to pray
without the clasped hands of the artist
devoted to Her glory?
Who will paint the Queen of Heaven?
Who will kiss the stained hand of her most devoted son?
In the park the drums have ceased to call us to the dance.
The dancers have packed their rattles and hoops
and gone away.
A black dove nests in the arms of my Bird of Paradise.
He leaves me feathers,
in memory of the one who’s gone.
by Donna Snyder
Published in my book Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal (Chimbarazu Press: New York City 2014)
dedicated to Trayvon Martin
focus on Kandinsky’s white dot
let the banality of real disappear
the colors like musical chords
the drama of primary
the black on white of keys
the white dot
it makes everything else black
dark holes envelope the whole
the emptiness of space stretching
from your there to my here
artificial constructs of time and space
memories of colors red and yellow
the impact of light on matter
what matter gives up to the eye
what it keeps for itself is black
black the color of all colors
the white dot in the dark whole
the sound of breath inside your head
imagines you are more than a dream
but your there is only a dream
my here nothing but a dreaM
forget the rules of the academy
there are no rules
forget theory of the iconoclasts
remember Einstein was wrong
there is no theory of everything
everything does not exist
the there and the here
the other there’s and other here’s
this earth spinning in a black void
energy moving through void to place
a truck leaves full of blue Buddhas
music born of an inner necessity
the disappearance of self and other
the meaninglessness of there and here
a white dot in the dark whole
published in BorderSenses 19, 2013
for Tina upon the death of her sister, Frida
When her twin died Tina lost her bearing. The sisters had never been apart. They slept together like friendly lovers. Cleaned each other’s face and ears, behind the neck. Frida never even had to speak, for Tina heard her thoughts. They played together in their dreams each night, running under the desert sun. Their hair the color of a fawn. Their bellies and feet, precious and pink. Their little hands in little white gloves.
Frida made up games for just the two of them. Tina was the athlete. The warrior. The beauty of the family. The sweetness. Indomitable. Frida, the artist. The invalid. The intrepid one. The creative. She worshipped fire. She feared no one. Together they were the Amazon princessas. Inseparable. Invisibly conjoined. So when Frida died, she became Tina’s phantom appendage. The agony of amputation without the blood. And Tina was lost.
She wandered from room to room, hoping to find a trace of Frida’s scent. That odor, slightly funky, completely intoxicating. But Frida was gone. She left none of her smell to comfort. None of her kisses. No chaste caresses.
The day after Frida died, Tina woke up old. She didn’t want to eat or drink. She refused to use the toilet or bathe. Her eyes, twin oceans of confusion and despair. What was this thing, “alone”? Why did her chest feel as if something had been carved out of it, leaving a bloody crater. No food could comfort. No special treat. No proffered embrace. She still felt her sister’s presence, a vestigial self, missing but so real. She was inconsolate.
Sometimes she would look in the mirror, see Frida’s face. Sometimes Frida would visit in dreams filled with happiness and sunshine. In the mornings as Tina began to wake from sleep, the memory of her loss engulfed her. Without volition, a long and low howl would escape from her chest.
This new world. So sad and lonely.
Less than seven months later, Tina followed Frida into death. They are buried together beneath an altar, a dead tree in situ, its roots still within the earth. A wooden carving of an angel’s face and wings five feet across crowns the stump. On one of the severed limbs sits a brass bowl kept filled with water for the birds who come to bathe and drink and eat the food we leave for them so they will sing to the twins below, a hillock of grass now covering what was nothing but rocks and clay. In the evenings I sing to Baby Tina and Little Frida, whose company I still need by my side, whose love and example of strength and joy I will miss until I die.
“. . . she widens the circle of grief to encompass the universal, collective experiences of loss and outrage all share as citizens of planet Earth.”
Mary Saracino’s review of my Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal in Return to Mago.
“One reads of dyings and deaths, and feels all the world’s spoken, sung, and written speech has streamed into Spanglish, in time for Donna Snyder to respond to it all.”
Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to order, and I can mail you a copy with my inscription.