Donna Snyder (Western Voices 2022)

Bio: Donna Snyder founded the Tumblewords Project in 1995 and continues to organize its free weekly workshop series and other events.  Her fourth collection of poetry will be published by Gutter Snob Books in July 2022.  She has more than 200 publications in literary journals and anthologies.

The grackle’s gifts

In my backyard there's a grackle. His eyes 
quick, he finds gifts I do not realize I need. Gives 
me his cocked head of attention. Sings love songs only
my Viejo knew, back to keep his eye on me, frustrated 
he no longer has thumbs, fists, a facile tongue, and bilingual brain. 
The grackle found another’s ring with letters and a date. But now 
it’s gone to pay the water bill.

Indigo shards adhere to glass bricks, bend light, distort shadows 
both inside the house and out.

My favorite sound is the harsh cry of a grackle.
My favorite smell is the honest sweat of a worker.
My favorite tastes are whisky and sin on his breath, 
or the gush of sex memorialized on hands and thighs.
My favorite gift is a lover who pays attention, gets it right.
The one who pulls me into that other dimension where nothing
exists but percussive sound, intimate scents, 

secrets muttered through clenched teeth into the back of my neck, 
a single black feather left outside my closed door.

My Life in Six Episodes


Born in a toxic rush of pain
I cry for the moon and know 
it dwells somewhere inside but held apart


Dust and heat surround me
I exit through the other side of books
I count the veins beneath the skin of leaves
My mouth eager for the forbidden I grasp 
the blue orb among the blinking lights


Words and sleep enchant me
I flee the sorrow of abnegation
Gaze into the mirror and wonder


I ponder the immutability of longing
Good-bye to all the rules of narrow sorrow
Meaning found in a chaos of cedar and herbs
Flesh welcomed by the kiss of sun-warm water
still hiding deep cool secrets among the roots and silt


After the rush from Eden
ecstatic stillness grows like sage across mesas
The smoke of piñon bathes me


The rush
The razzle dazzle
The sense of value
The sense of importance and meaning
The paradox of need

Quantum jitters

If the universe evolved from a bad case of quantum jitters
and time predates matter and space, then mathematics
is a failed approximation of absolute truth
with its effort to freeze meaning in a formula.

Time frozen is a thing of beauty but so are many fallacies,
the music of the spheres, the harmony of a static galaxy,
the dissonance introduced by Galileo’s dissent.
Ptolemeic theory explains the anthropic principle well enough
but the push of darkness proves Ptolemy wrong
(not that Newton was right).
Each theory supplanted, one after another,
as measurements shine a light through the darkness.

The exquisite asymmetry of time.
Space always emergent but still,  
time existed before either matter or space.
A butterfly’s life span,
dependent on the leg of migration in which it is born.
Born at this time, it lives weeks.
Born that time, it lives years.
Each night a positive.
Each day a minus.
Our bodies and minds are informed by sunlight.

Time is reversible in relativity and in quantum physics,
moving back and forth,
a psychological construct, perhaps,
or maybe a basic function of the universe.
Perhaps time predates space. 
Perhaps everything is relative to everything else.
Each time the universe ends, it begins again.
History begins again, repeats itself infinitely.

Mid twentieth century.  Ring around the rosies.
Little girls in white anklets and patent leather Mary Janes,
little boys in cowboy shirts and boots.
Medieval games played in the red dog gravel
outside the one room Twitty Baptist church.
Children mouth words wrought of the black plague
while inside the grown-ups drink grape juice.
Take this in remembrance of me.
Driving home through the cotton fields. 
The radio plays Chubby Checkers, 
frozen in time in the form of a black vinyl disc.

Entropy, the second law of thermodynamics.
Everything will slow down and come to a stop,
heat flows forth from a warmer place to the cold,
hydrogen and helium spreading out across the universe
until they no longer interact
and all we know becomes nothing.
All the stars become ash.

Out of the mouths of babes.
We all fall down.


  1. Many thanks to Scott Thomas Outlar, Sunil Sharma, and Anurag Sharma for including my work in this fourth Western Voices issue of Setu. I appreciate the hard work you perform on behalf of the global poetry community.

  2. 🎉🙌🏽♥️🔥


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