jay snodgrass

The Best American Poetry


Because you’ll want to know,

What I’m doing is leaning against

the long malformed arm of a live Oak

near the little lake downtown. It has nice

turns of concrete sidewalk. The home-

less don’t talk to you, & the helicopter

behind the great central spume

hovers over only imaginary wounded.

The sign says one complete circuit

is a kilometer and thus the exercise is

of European design. The waddling

herds of Muscovite ducks really

terrify me. Their wattles nearly covering

the black seeds of their eyes, &

the stain of their combination shit

and piss are bucolic interruptions

of the city, warning: beware, animals shitting.

& the thought of giving over your lunch

demands in the seeth of their flipper

feet, the hook on the ends their bills.

Meanwhile, an organized gang of school kids

sets up to race around the pond

just as a line of ducklings marches

to the crossing. One homeless man,

be-do-ragged & scrawny stands arms

out to protect the ducklings. The meeting

of privilege and responsibility. The kids

just run around him, whooping. I’m

still a larch end leaner looking on.

& what about you, watching me through

all this? Aren’t you sick of this yet?

The hoary ducks, the predictable circuit.




Eye Ten: Hurricane Katrina 


The overture of wreckage is such music, a spawning.

Whatever’s left, the dogs fight over.


Out of these mile-markers of agitation

The eye droop looms.


After the storm, only the market shares

Are investigated, bet on, overrun

With rat revenge. Meanwhile, all of

Outer space shudders


At the thought of what carnage, what

Could have been a simple jet of radiation. The jet

Liner cutting nightlong time out of the sky,


Across the ocean, I mean.

Those relief trucks heaping themselves in defeat

Just from looking.


I stop off for gas, the dying cities

Gulp for air.  I don’t know how to

Think about this. A row of billboards bow their heads.


Dawn is a frown of ferocious sky.

I don’t know

How to think.





The Velvet Paranoia



Boy, you’re all really out to get me, aren’t you?

I know because of the velvet serpentine a river

would make, if there were enough rain to make

a river. I know you’re out to get me because if

you weren’t you’d bake me a red velvet cake.

Which is a favorite of dock workers & their stolen

nights. Come to think of it, that hook they use

to pull packages, the one Brando laces across

his shoulder when he bunges up the courage to

go back to work at the end of On the Waterfront,

THAT kind of leisurely gaff, that’s also how I know

you’re out to get me. The bent needle stitching

together the two velvety halves of flesh inside

my wound. The wound you made trying to get me.