Tanya Snyder


I went to your neighborhood,
she said.
The men outside the liquor store
leered but said nothing.
They all wore knit caps
and no wedding rings.
The sign on the door admonished
no beer before nine
and no dessert till you eat your peas.
Starched yellow newspapers
blew through alleys
and stuck like plaque in every seam of this city
with dirty leaves and wet trash
piled higher than the crumbling curbsides
painted colors coded for parking.

I went to your neighborhood,
she said.
The daytime was rattled, restless
panhandling for happy hour
concrete the only color.
Umbrella vendors appeared in the rain
raising prices. Otherwise,
buy your newspaper
and get out.
It lit up at night, bling bling,
the street tar black as the sky
neon like stars calling from millions of years ago.
Bright eyes searchlight the scene
glitter and sequins reflecting the shimmy of
laughter like tiny moons
every juke box playing songs picked and paid for
two hours ago by crawlers two bars down.
They crowded in, tight spaces all night tightening
in high-priced real estate
drinking highballs and High Life.
By three a.m. the mood was dark and restless again.
Bar lights shined like headlights and the revelers
their caught deer. Last call hit hard.

I went to your neighborhood,
she said.
I asked for you but no one knew.
The woman in the jogging suit and the heart monitor and the iPod
sashayed past, muttering something, Dopplered silent.
The man walking his dog and his four-year-old shrugged.
The hired landscapers on riding mowers gave me a card
to give you if I found you.
They have the best rates in town and they also do arbors.
These were the only people I saw.
No one knew you.
Separated from the sidewalk by a moat
of squared-off hedges and sinister thickets of rosebush,
the houses sprawled up and out in three dimensions.
I peered in each plateglass window for signs of you.
I set off alarms.
I was not supposed to come so close.

She said, I went to your neighborhood.
Ranchera music competed with merengue
with cumbia
with bachata
in adjoining stalls of pirated CDs
with color copy covers.
Women in hairnets will sell you a pupusa in three languages.
They have come a long way through hungry deserts
to sell you that pupusa.
Their backs are scarred with razor wire.
They don’t want to talk about it.
Their daughters wear low-rider jeans and navel rings.
Their men are the first outside the 7-11
each morning in paint-splattered pants
and thick canvas gloves.
They rent their bodies by the hour
like everyone else.

She said,
the sun was shining off snowbanks in your neighborhood.
She said the children had shoes but no books
she said the children had books but no parents
she said the children had paddycake and double dutch
and they sang all day till dark.

She said it rained in your neighborhood
till the phone lines came down
and the wind howled
and the German Shepherd howled
and the wives howled.
Dirty water washed through the streets
like tourists: eddy, flood, eddy, flood.

She said, I’ve been to a nation of neighborhoods
and yours is the best-smelling, the most secretive,
the most heart-broken, the least fattening.

She never stays long.
She travels light.
She sleeps standing up.

You’re very lucky, she says.
You must be so proud.



Tanya Snyder has lived in DC since 1999, except for two years she spent living in Colombia and Cuba, working with Witness for Peace against US foreign policy. Her poetry has been published in Struggle, Herspectives, and Potpourri. She is on the Coordinating Committee of Split This Rock: A Festival of Poetry of Provocation and Witness, to be held in March 2008 in DC. She is the Director of Voices on the Border, a solidarity organization doing community development work in rural El Salvador.

Published in Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 2007.


To read more by this author:
Tanya Snyder: Split This Rock Issue