Michael Snider

Dancing Jesus

I broke my leg when I was 4. I tried
To run before it hurt, but had to look
And saw the bottom of my foot beside
My calf and screamed and fell. My father took
Me to St. Joseph's, where I thought the nuns
In black were witches and the ones in white
Were ghosts. At first I used my Christmas guns
To keep them off. Their candy cured my fright.
I learned to pray to Dancing Jesus, who
Was hung above my bed. I didn't know
What dance he danced or why. I only knew
The witches laughed when I would call him so.
I tried to dance with him until I learned
That those who wouldn't dance his steps were burned.


A half-hour climb and our world
was gone—poplar, maple,
below us sycamore marking
the creek, crushed wintergreen
and mountain laurel sweet
around us, wind masking
the cars we knew moved
behind the ridge, empty sky.

Waded downstream
an hour, reached the lake
and made camp without speaking.
What could we have said?
"Those are fish."?
"My feet are cold."?
"I love you."?
All true enough.

When the earth's shadow
nearly covered the moon
I stripped and swam
out along the trail of light.
Sneezed and spluttered
in the mountain waterand it was dark.

No shore, no sky, no trail, only water,
only cold, only me in the night, bobbing
for a while up and down .
I knew the moon would be back
without me, knew crocus would bloom
next spring right where it bloomed
when the phone rang
with my father's heart attack,
knew the Sisters would spin
faint into the sky
and out again behind
the city's lights, knew
the sun would find the world

and  the sky filled with stars.

"Do You Ever Want to Leave?"

I said, "Once in a blue moon,"
Meaning  almost never, still
Not never"This afternoon,"
I  didn't say, wanting skill
To hide the thought, knowing she
Would know. Now it's all downhill,
Slipping, stumbling to be free
 From each other's gravity.


One day the door opens. "Hello, dear,"
She says, as though you loved her.  You suppose
That's right but what's her name? "I need a beer—
You want one?"  She pecks your cheek and goes
Into the kitchen, which is where you think
It ought to  be. She comes back naked"Don't
Just sit there.  Take your beer and take a drink
And take your clothes off. Then take me. I won't
Bite at first." And isn't she your wife?
You watch the ring she's wearing on the hand
She reaches out to pull you from your  life
And take you to her dark, unending land
Where you, your mind and flesh, are her delight,
Where nothing matters but her appetite.

For years Michael Snider's been trying to support his poetry habit with jobs ranging from middle school Spanish teacher to roofer to software engineer. Currently, he's working at the Patuxent River Naval Air
Station in Maryland so he can keep his family housed in Cary, North Carolina. His poems have appeared in Matrix, The Louisville Review, and Columbia, and he blogs at Mike Snider's Formal Blog and Sonnetarium.


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