Poem for the day: Gary Snyder “Changing Diapers”

gary snyder

The great Gary Snyder: Never a man to be afraid of kicking up (or even picking up) a stink.

Gary Snyder’s a poet that I don’t read enough of, but I really ought to. His work can be serious, since it covers a lot of weighty and complex issues (for instance he was in the vanguard of writers who were taking up themes of environmental concern). However, I’ve always found the dominant tone in his writing to be a good humoured openness, which allows him to convey the significance of everything from the wonders of nature to more domestic joys. Here’s  good example which I picked at random today. It’s called “Changing Diapers” (or ‘nappies’ where I come from).

What I like most in this poem is that it deals with an everyday domestic occurrence in tender language. In so doing this allows him to subtly convey his underlying serious point about how you define being a man.

He knows that if you want to make a convert, you’ve got to make them laugh and smile first.

Changing Diapers

How intelligent he looks!

on his back

both feet caught in my hand

his glance set sideways,

on a giant poster of Geronimo

with a Sharp’s repeating rifle on his knee.

I open, wipe, he doesn’t even notice

nor do I.

Baby legs and knees

toes like little peas

little wrinkles, good-to-eat,

eyes bright, shiny ears,

chest swelling drawing air,

No trouble, friend,

you and me                and Geronimo

are men.