Vox Populi

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Michael Simms: Satan and the Snowman

Many Christmases ago

I was in a toy store shopping

for my daughter when I saw


a man in his twenties, a store

employee, leaning toward

a shelf of snowmen dressed


in little top hats and plaid

scarves, and the young man said

quite distinctly HAIL SATAN


and all the snowmen repeated

HAIL SATAN. Startled I stepped

back, knocking over a display case


of Bikini Barbies. Then I saw a sign

above the young man’s head,


Mimicking Snowmen
. Holy


Jesus I thought, what

has Christmas come to?

What have I come to,


trapped between

demonic Frosties

and anorexic Barbies?



*

When I was eight I was raped

by an older boy. It wasn’t

brutal, more seduction


than assault, but I bled

for days. As I grew up,

I remembered it rarely, as if


it was just one of those things

boys do. Maybe it was.

How would I know,


having led only one life?

But I know this: when

a boy buries a secret


he grows to be a man

who hurts others. It’s simple:

A heart that’s broken


breaks hearts. So I followed

a daisy chain of secret betrayals,

small thefts, rehearsed summaries


of the faults of my lovers,

perfectly timed accusations

and insincere reconciliations.



*

I don’t have relationships,

the old drunk explained

with surprising wisdom,


I take hostages.

To stay married

a man must forgive


his wife for loving him.

But why buy the cow

when manure is free? I think.


You can, as I did for many years,

drift from love to love as if

betrayal were the answer to longing



*

A man feeling unworthy of love

can’t enter his own house

so he stands in the front yard


hoping to gain the courage

to join his family. It is winter.

Snow is falling. Through


the front window he sees

the brightly decorated tree,

his wife and children


in front of the fireplace

and yet he can’t bring himself

to enter the warmth.


He finds if he stands still

and lets the snow fall on him,

he feels somewhat warmer.


He takes off his clothes and lets

his skin freeze. At last he’s warm.

The snow falls steadily covering


his head and shoulders,

arms and hands. His feet

lock in ice. His eyes, ears, nose


cake with snow. His joints stiffen.

His arms become crooked branches,

his eyes lumps of coal, his nose


a ridiculous carrot. He breathes snow

until his lungs are full. He eats snow

until his guts are solid with the stuff


His daughter comes out of the house

kindly wraps a plaid scarf

around his neck, balances a top hat


on the snowball of his head

How are you, Daddy? she asks

I’m fine he says. And he is. He’s fine.

From Nightjar by Michael Simms (Ragged Sky, 2021). Copyright 2021 Michael Simms.

Michael Simms is the founding editor of Vox Populi. His previous books include American Ash (Ragged Sky, 2020).

13 comments on “Michael Simms: Satan and the Snowman

  1. Sean Sexton
    December 30, 2021

    I really like it Michael!
    Very fine!
    Merry Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ruth Leah Schwartz
    December 26, 2021

    It’s an incredible poem, Michael. Devastating, stunning in composition, excruciating yet redemptive just because of how clearly it sees and speaks — even though there is no redemption in the poem, reading it felt redemptive to me somehow. “Say it clearly and you make it beautiful no matter what,” as Bruce Weigl said (in a poem also dealing with his sexual abuse as a boy, interestingly enough.) I feel so much appreciation for you as a poet. Am glad to be getting to know you in this way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      December 26, 2021

      Thank you so much, Ruth. I think you know I’ve admired your poetry for many years, so your praise means so much to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lex Runciman
    December 20, 2021

    The direct, almost prosy syntax of this poem becomes the vehicle for ever more complex reader-responses. The poem’s four-part composition complicates the holiday season in ways at once surprising, appalling, and wise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      December 20, 2021

      Thank you, Lex. It’s rare that I actually learn something from a reader’s response to my work. I see why your students adore you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Barbara Huntington
    December 19, 2021

    I read this poem yesterday just before sitting down to meditate for half an hour. I held an image of a grey stone, smooth, and very heavy. It was the author’s stone, but also mine and I assumed it would become a poem. In my walk after breakfast, I imagined it gaining pearly accretions, but they broke away from its smoothness and the stone remained, perhaps palm-sized, very heavy, hard, smooth, gray. It returned again today. I sit under a warm wool Tibetan blanket, but it remained cold and hard. I’ve scribbled thoughts in my notebook, but the stone is not yet ready to yield a poem. I have not read/watched today’s offering, but saw a comment here and hope for resolution. This sucker is heavy and I don’t think it is what they mean by weight-bearing exercise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      December 19, 2021

      Thank you so much for this, Barbara. Your image of the grey stone as the starting point of a poem is brilliant.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Patricia A. Nugent
    December 18, 2021

    This was a perfect pairing with the video about how sharing secrets sets us free. It releases the shame. Bought Nightjar as a Christmas gift – sure to pack a punch. Thanks to VP for being a safe space.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. melpacker
    December 18, 2021

    It’s a tough read, Michael. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jose A. Alcantara
    December 18, 2021

    Damn, Michael. That one hits hard.

    Liked by 1 person

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