Room 74 • Poetry Hotel
Six Poems / Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb
CIRCE OF PRESCOTT
The herd of peccaries is increasing.
Neighbors suspiciously watch my yard,
noticing I recently bought livestock pans
to strategically place water here and there
to accommodate the growing groups
of white-collared, bristled beasts.
Not an evil enchantress, just a crone
with a venomous disposition
toward odysseys of the technological kind,
I innocently hold a water bucket
and greet onlookers’ bewilderment--
Isn’t it lovely to live
on the edge of the wilderness? But water
is so rare in the high desert this time of year.
Clusters of sniffing snouts and dainty hooves
trot around, brushing against my legs.
I point at the knee-high creatures--
Did you know they can drink enough
in one shot to go without for days?
The response is typical, irritated silence,
then a starting up of lawnmowers,
power saws, leaf blowers, weed eaters,
and other machines that invade the habitat
of my senses. But I take comfort in knowing
that one day my backyard will be home
to all those people who have crossed my space.
120 YEARS OLD IS A GOOD EXPECTATION
(If You Don’t Outlive Your Money)
I plan to live forever,
my husband tells the agent,
both of them aware
that his answer defies
actuarial science, any science.
It is just another question
on the form; how predict
longevity (actually your death)
if age transcends the formula?
Seriously, Sir, I can’t help you
assess financial security
without your estimate, she says.
My husband puts the phone
on speaker and says to me,
Honey, do you have any idea
about when we might expire?
I think about fate, about accidents,
about miracles, about life—
and money to support it.
Tell the agent to plug in 120;
ask how much we would need
annually to live comfortably and
if that amount can accommodate
cryogenic revival and such . . .
EARLY RETIREMENT—THE FIRST COURSE
It's like trying to mix a delicate salad
with a pitchfork and chain-saw,
you write a friend about retirement
after all those years of waiting
to be free; now you are
a full-time writer
and it terrifies you; the educator
wants all his characters
to be informative and respected
by students—a general audience.
Your protagonists mirror
professors—even the villains
have something worthy to impart,
some lesson they carry. Your life
has evidently become a bowl of greens.
Have you considered using your hands
for more control when tossing it?
TWO GRIZZLY BEARS—A TITLE THAT DOESN’T SAY IT ALL
When late autumn held
its windy breath for one day,
we risked going back
over Sylvan Pass; suddenly,
by us, they seemed to rise
a few feet ahead, emerging
from yesterday’s snow—
two golden grizzlies,
a mother and yearling cub,
quietly crossing the icy road,
no doubt to return to a den
nearby and hibernation.
This is the point where
to really capture the reader,
I should have some profound
image, preferably a metaphor
in present tense—they are
some light-edged darkly
ursine beasts bestowing
rebirth after death, or perhaps
they dwell as archetypes
or maybe as forms to fear
shaped in ancestral memory,
massive carnivores, growling,
flesh-clawing creatures eating
bloody scalps in cavernous
corners of the human mind—
anyway, something clever
to show not tell; well,
for the sake of this poem,
I’m telling you
that I feel I have betrayed
the beauty of these bears,
snow-deep, graced by sunlight,
an immense moment’s integrity
now lost behind mighty
but oh so mundane words.
THE MAN WHOSE NAME I NEVER KNEW
(During the Covid Pandemic—April 2020)
A man whose name I never knew
has something urgent to tell me.
He must have seen me from his car
as he passed the courthouse square,
the only place I now feel safe to walk
with the damned virus shutting down
everything, closing lives, opening
distances. He used to come here
in the morning with his wife
who used a walker while he waited
patiently for her to finish one block,
then guide her gently to the car
and wave good-bye to me.
This man whose name I never knew
stands reaching out in twilight,
motions for me to stop, which I do
not because he’s not wearing a mask,
yet he keeps moving toward me.
I hear what he is saying, but don’t care
that he is crying, trying to tell me—
coming closer, closer, closer;
as much as I want to care, instead
back away as he continues forward.
I can’t care, even as he shouts his wife
died last night. I hold my hands out,
not to hug, but, rather, say, “Six feet away!”
EVIDENCE OF SPIRIT
Embodied spirituality requires an understanding
that nature is not inanimate and less than
human, but animated and more than human.
-- George Lakoff and Mark Johnson
Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied
Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought
Here is my spirit:
hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen,
and carbon-based, night regions
spirally bound and ringing
the center of the soul,
DNA phosphatefully linked,
rich in ribose,
but nothing sugary is coated
into the elements
crafting sweet civilization
from the culture of the Earth,
an integrity of integument,
a membrane of species,
10 million cellular expressions,
only 1.5 million named.
Even in this postmodern game,
the brain form
contents itself with relativity,
ecologies of morals,
and textual journeys; myth
may define boundaries,
but edges depend on electrons
stitching the soul
into an evolutionary weave,
the universe animated
by that exquisite electrogenesis
where dwells the nature
of human spirit.