THE AMERICAN (THE VASE) by Michael Snediker

(from “The New York Editions”)

When we were kids, my younger brother knocked over a vase
and before we could begin reassembling it, our mother
was there squeezing his wrists until they were red as her face.
My brother was stolid and the more our mother yelled,
the harder she gripped and shook his wrists, the more stolid
he became. It was a feedback loop. What she took
for belligerence was his determination not to cry so that
when he did, and when in his wailing she understood,
she went silent, his crying running through us like a crack.
When the world we imagine is eclipsed by the world
we live in, it stares at us like that: stolid, mute, dumb—aggravating
to no end. And you who belong to this novel like it was something
you bought won’t understand my leaving it. Money will take you
only so far as the iron gates of the Abbey, through which,
some Sundays, you might sometimes maybe hear me sing.
When we were kids, Snow White’s glass coffin and Wonder Woman’s
invisible jet fascinated me for the same reasons. Fragile, for once,
and impervious weren’t opposites. Fragile, like invisible,
was part of a larger strategy. So when I tell you that my disappointments
have buried me in a glass coffin, imagine me in an invisible jet,
miles above you, breath evaporating on the endless, unrelenting
mirror of sky.

Michael Snediker is the author of The Apartment of Tragic Appliances (Punctum Books, 2013), and two chapbooks, Bourdon (White Rabbit Press) and Nervous Pastoral (dove|tail). He’s also the author of Queer Optimism: Lyric Personhood and Other Felicitous Persuasions (U.Minnesota Press). He’s Associate Professor of English at the University of Houston.