Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Backscatter of Survival

—Poetry by Cheryl Snell, Glen Dale, DE
—Photos Courtesy of Public Domain


They see the two porcini at the same time.
The sun has wet his shirt and he strips it off
without thinking. She’s not looking;
she only has eyes for the mushrooms
awaiting her frying pan. She leans down
to pull them out of the moss, but he stays her arm.
“Look─the tall one’s cap is the small one’s
When she notices the growths in his armpit,
Golden King Bolete gills spring into view
from the humid spot where fungi fused with skin.
“You’ve done this before, I see,” she says. 


They gathered every evening in the middle of it.
They plucked what they’d trapped in the concentric
and shared the morsels with their mother while she
rested from her spin. The dusk crept toward night,
the moon tumbling after it. That moon would help
them climb down the silk strands later.
It would do the same near dawn, escorting them 
past nameless sins
they’d buried in the dark. When the dawn splashed 
up puddles of color, they’d crawl home, stepping 
out of their skins as they went.
Eventually, they’d learn to hide each version of 
after they shed it─but never from one another.
Even when the world said they were pests.
Even though they’d converged on the moon. 


Think about the time he bought the gun.
Think about the night he robbed his own mother.
How he hot-wired her car. Think about the times
he was caught. Think about when he was seduced
by the power of suggestion. Think about the
method by which he took the hint. 



Mother slips into sleep
beside the banked fire.

The red pulse at its core
warms her bones,
but it’s flesh
that keeps her rooted here,
a steeple of fingers
under the chin.

When she opens scribbled lids
to dreams already pulling away,
her hands, twined at the thumb,

Along the route
of her dreamed migrations,
two birds followed one another
into the guttering shadows.


Nature tosses a flock to the sky
as if from a pail
of water. Ochre beaks
point out in showgirl synch
it is we've missed—
the backscatter
of survival,
the bend and break
of an injured wing.

If by some thin volition
it lifts, touching down
on a wire
miles away, it will float
from its fellows,
above the dusk road
in the face of a setting sun.


By the time our father
bolted from his sickbed to squeeze
the nurse's breast, we'd worked
ourselves into a frenzy of waiting.

When he fell back on the pillow,
he's sleeping, we whispered.
He can't hear our words' mad buzz.

Outside, a chirping bird hovered
above a broken cricket dragging
through backyard thatch.

It rose up, sudden as a mind changing,
and the room sagged with breath
held against the last thing we wanted
to see: a pair of wings escaping,
the world left out of reach.


A bird calls, jerks its head
to take in the carnage
of the storm, rubs against
a church pew lodged in the spar
of a splintered telephone pole.

Tom blossoms glimmer
above a rich sorrow of worms.
Dazed, the bird has lost
longitude and latitude of home.

Hurled through with feathers,
the air is filled with wings luffing
across the rusting sun.

All the bird has to do is follow its fellow,
leave a wake of shipwrecked city behind.

The machines have all ceased speaking.
Water stains spread, brown-edged maps
to nowhere.


A call like a rusty hinge
skreaks overhead.

Garden gates open
only to close again reluctantly.

But this is not about redemption,
it's about identity

and how the glazed sky
hurled through with feathers

will sometimes part like water
for one bird.

It comes to perch
on a tangle of branches,

and suddenly there are many birds.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Cheryl Snell

unpeeling a jackpot sticker
realizing hey, that’s my lucky number
smoothing it onto the billboard
scraping it off again
slapping it onto my shirt pocket
shouting I won I won I won
unhooking the safety harness
sprinting to the crosswalk
pushing a traffic button
waiting for my luck to change.


—Medusa, with welcome back and our thanks to Cheryl Snell for her poetry today, as she sends us murmurings of murmurations, our recent Tuesday’s Seed of the Week.
 "Even though they’d converged on the moon. . ."
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy
of Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA

A reminder that Placerville will celebrate
International Human Rights Day today
with art and readings at Town Hall, 2pm.
For info about this and other
upcoming poetry happenings in
Northern California and otherwheres,
click on
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LittleSnake’s Glimmer of Hope
(A cookie from the Kitchen for today)

vigilant jay shrieks
warnings at me
just for looking out
my own window…