Comfort Measure #5 by Cheryl Snell

Comfort Measure #5

Because my brain hurts, I’ll focus
on the body. I’ll applaud its machines,
the way they stick but then recover ─
as when the breath held captive in the dark
reconsiders death and bursts from the mouth,
spittling champagne bubbles. We must always
celebrate something. I’ll toast with this bottle
of fake tears, which lets me continue crying
at the place where my grief left off.

Because we never run out of sorrow
I’ll roll through these bright halls knowing
no one is safe. This wheelchair can’t outrun
disease, speeding up so that time itself
goes backward, however much the woman
in the next room would like that. She’s calling
for her mother again, but doesn’t believe in
the notion there is no death. She remembers
blossoms blooming only to wither.
Once she told me she was sure they dream of water
and the taste of air.

by Cheryl Snell

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Editor’s Note: Grief is deceptively complex, and the poems I have been receiving recently are all true, and all completely different, even as the pain remains the same. This poem uses blunt, brilliant imagery to convey the difficulty of functioning with grief as an ever-present companion.

Notes on a Ruled Surface by Cheryl Snell

Notes on a Ruled Surface

A few lines flung about the paper land in a cone shape, which we imagine as a hat. The hat is then flung about the curved head of a woman standing in the margins of a French novel. No. That’s not quite right. It should be a conical hat, better suited to scrolling down a set of points swept by a moving straight line. Think: a river dotted with lanterns.

When you let your eye follow the hat, you see how softly it slips over the woman’s edifice of tightly latched birdcages, falls over the tight Achilles tendons that brought her to her knees. Her hips can no longer swing from the cages, she can no longer make out the points that were so easy to find before the dark descended. Now she is a figure leaning into herself, imagining the river.

Behind her sprawls the diagrammed idea of an exit, a staircase spiraling to the ceiling, as in the Louvre. No. Let’s try that again…spiraling up to a sky full of clouds— which, by the way, are just now assembling themselves into triangles, wedges, pyramids—competitive shapes that can be flung at the hat until there is a confusion of three-cornered objects blanketing the sky.

No one knows how such transformations happen. It’s a mysterious process, narcissistic to the core. And with so much flinging back and forth, none of the shapes notices that the woman is trapped inside her only means of escape, crouched low inside a birdcage twisted open. The day spoils in the sun. The figures are just geometry and cannot hear the woman cry.

by Cheryl Snell

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Editor’s Note: Prose poems are deceptively simple, until you try writing one and realize the lack of line breaks means you must figure out another way to emphasize imagery. This poem’s surreal narrative moves from a sketch to dreams and back again.

From the archives – Painted Garden — Cheryl Snell

Painted Garden

If he had simply faded
like a shout from the street,
the chaste tree
she loves for its blue irony
would not have been planted,
nor the red clover made to bleed.
It was always too dark, or windy,
it was too late to call
or she would have grown blooms enough
to rasp against the drainpipe, she could have
frilled the sills with fringe. The point
is to keep track of it all: the tears and lies,
the number of times skin pinks
under unfamiliar hands. The muscles,
lax enough, will loose inhibitions
into the world. To load a brush with moments,
who doesn’t want that? She wasn’t trying
to mock the sun with night-blooming flowers.
She was trying to capture the foxglove’s broken hearts.

from Autumn Sky Poetry 10 — by Cheryl Snell

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Pursuit by Cheryl Snell


A man rounds the corner, zigzag
shadow reaching for the woman
who steps out of it.

He’s a late-comer, can’t catch up
to the lady strolling through dusk
that blazed gold only this morning.

He’d pulled the quilt over his head,
begged the clock for ten more minutes
but she’d already pitched forward

to events no one can plan. Along
straggling streets that will never
connect them, the woman moves on.

Behind her, the man elbows through
the crush, searching all the places
where a door is left ajar. A wedge

of light spills onto steps falling
from the house into the hooded evening.
He’d have followed her the way

she’d always wanted, but night curves
without warning, the stars do not
touch, the road stretches down to the sea.

by Cheryl Snell 

Editor’s Note: In this poem, the reader isn’t sure if the woman pursued is real, a shadow, or beam of light. In the end, it doesn’t much matter. The point is the pursuit, not the person.