Western Voices: Donna Snyder

Donna Snyder founded the Tumblewords Project in 1995 and continues to organize its free weekly workshops and other events. Her poetry collections include Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal from Chimbarazu Press, I Am South from Virgogray Press, and The Tongue Has its Secrets from NeoPoiesis Press. Her poetry and book reviews appear in many publications including such journals and anthologies as Red Fez, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, VEXT Magazine, Mezcla, BorderSenses, Puerto del Sol, Inanna’s Ascent, and Speak the Language of the Land. She practiced law for 33 years, representing indigenous people, people with disabilities, and immigrant workers. 


The noise inside your head sings counterpoint to that in mine. I love it when you answer my thoughts. It makes me feel as if you hold me in the hollow of your throat, in your navel, between your scapular muscles. Inside your mouth, held like hot liquor. Tesla waves emanating from me to the receiver that is between your eyes.

The sound of your thoughts spread through my body like code. The shape of your hand appears on the moon of my mente, like a pictograph left for others to ponder the inherent ephemerality of beauty. I feel your teeth on the back of my shoulder. You grab my hair and pull my head around to the side so I can see just what you are doing.  Eso.

I won't forget. I finger the proof that you existed. Here, and here, and here, as well.

Nothing is never nothing

A message
written for a bottle with no ocean
The body atremble, the mouth a desert
Sirens so far away but still the jaws grind
Not even the dogs know what dogs always know
Hands thrust into what becomes a salivating mouth
Birds fall, frozen, from the sky to unyielding ground

Words without meaning
Ask the women, they all will tell you
An utterance shuts out objective meaning
Oxygen sucks the life out of a lying mouth
Not even the shadow knits truth from facts
The first page missing, the first line begins
. . . but that was long after Night arose from nothing

Dark void of space
counter-intuitively comprising Earth, Wind,
Water, and Fire, the gods both spirit and being,
but their answers illusory, begging the question
Something from nothing, they say
yet nothing was ever made of something

the first something from which gods appeared,
and from them, everything in the known world
A vacuum that yielded only luminous flashes 
yet gave birth to Night and her brother, Darkness
And when Night and Darkness coupled, Night 
gave birth to Light and Day, Sleep and Death

Time killed Space, his father
Night, hidden away in her cave, made oracles,
listened to drums, the raucous timpani, the tzils,
the celestial bodies' thrum, as her daughter judged,
moving the universe in the rhythms of ecstatic dance
Time dreamed, prophesied the future, drunk on honey,
oblivious to Retribution that chained him within Night’s cave

A blank book
no longer wholly incomplete
Ink now scratched over ruled lines
filled with fragments, a two-lane highway
Leaves plucked from a boll of cotton
A vignette of tin roofs and stucco shacks
A stalk of bronze maize braided to the dusty green

An artist's eye
no better than that of a witness in a court of law
Each untrustworthy as the basis for a just outcome
The mere act of observation will change the observed
Time lies incognizant of retribution yet prophesying still
With neither bottle nor letter, the world spins in a lonely sea

the water, even there

Solitary is split in two
between sunrise
and the impartial moon.
Someone told her
the moon had seas,
so she constructed a vision
that luna held the might-have
in never-water’s arms.

In the palm of shattered night,
words fell as exhausted moths,
brief about dishonest suns.
In this way she came to sleep,
weary of change, squeezing dreams
into the small spaces
between setting and rising.


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