Bill Snyder

Contest Winner - 2nd Place

Bill Snyder has published in Atlanta Review, Poet Lore, Folio, Cottonwood, and Southern Humanities Review among others. He was the co-winner of the 2001 Grolier Poetry Prize, and the winner of the 2002 Kinloch Rivers Chapbook competition and the Consequence Prize in Poetry, 2013. He teaches writing and literature at Concordia College, Moorhead, MN.


Two class hours of Diamant and Danticat—their
tents and bones—then seventy thistly
minutes of fledgling poems—the intro class—
and I’m feeling hollowed out, like
a conch might, by current and sand. By centuries.
Now three o'clock, and a stack yet to grade,
but by my office, a woman. Not
a student here, her eyes say as much,
and her body, harnessed and slack.
Who are you looking for? I ask, recalling our
homecoming day. Professor, she says,
you remember me. I took poetry.
I say, oh, yes, I remember. She says
her name, says it’s been five years, and
I ask what she does these days. I’m a cashier,
she says, at Wal-Mart, and I say, oh, good for
you, but, sorry, got to run—a meeting, you know.
She walks down the hall, and on to dinner,
the concert tonight, lunch and game tomorrow.
Then back to work on Monday—the buttons
and screens, the swiping beeps, the spinning
stands of plastic bags, prayer wheels
of America. Don't judge, I think. Arrest your
disappointment. But it’s more than that. It's
the helplessness. And fear—that
I'm a kind of machine myself—kinetic,
perpetual—another rotary-something,
beeping as I spin—turbine, flywheel,
windmill—that I’m spinning around
and all the kids are hanging on, or I'm
hanging on to them—whichever—who knows
the physics of it. But they all let go eventually—
they want to, or have to. Or I let go. And what?

This poem comes from experience. I couldn’t place the student, couldn’t remember her name. And as she walked down that hall, the hollowness, and the discomfort I felt.