Spring/Summer 2007, Volume 23.3
N. Colwell Snell
N. Colwell Snell graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in English. He is currently president of the Utah State Poetry Society and chancellor of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, where he serves as chairman of the College/University Poetry Competition. In 2005, he edited Utah Sings Volume VIII, an anthology of contemporary verse by Utah poets. His poetry has been published in several anthologies and magazines, including ByLine Magazine, California Quarterly, and Bay Area Poets’ Coalition.
At dusk, killdeer shriek
wrinkles at the air. It means
danger to some unwitting
mother bent in a balk
and injured wing.
All day, birds flit
cottonwood branches, unloosing
themselves to tamp sweaty bark.
The trunk is their pivot,
of frenetic fingers in the dark.
and hang on black limbs
until the wind shreds them to fluff,
sends them to sweep the sky clean,
small innocuous bombs
launched to slice the moon in half.
After you are gone,
trees will still bend in the hollow
and seize the steep
canyon’s throat. Some sweetheart will still lean
on her lover’s neck, shallow
curve of her waist tight against his hip.
But tonight, I only hear the curved lip
of the nightingale singing slightly off-key,
echoing far beyond sundown.
All day you’ve exhausted yourself
tracking down museums, gardens,
flexed muscles of the past.
Because you’re with a friend,
you end up at the table
of someone you’ve never met,
a war widow living on a pension
barely enough to check starvation.
Now you hear her in the kitchen,
overboil lisping on a single burner,
distress of apron-rustle
as her flowered dress, heavy tan stockings,
disgorge the hollow promises:
Anschluss Lebensraum Deutschland über Alles.
She sets a few slices
of black bread on the platter,
brings thin soup like an offering
and ladles it into your bowl.
How could you not savor every drop?