top of page

C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Politics; Old White Guys on Snowmobiles; The Ring Cycle

By: Keith Dunlap


We are driven by forces we don’t know

Driven by forces as unrelenting as snow

A snow that doesn’t stop to count itself

In its crowded multitude as it descends

From somewhere in the middle air

Like a host of ravenous insects which appear

One at a time at a time and then tremendous

Laying a linen shroud and then

Becoming what it is covering

The green roofs of the white cottages

And the wires and the poles

And the asphalt driveways and

The hoods of the parked cars

All clouds

Old White Guys on Snowmobiles

Where are they going and why are they making so much noise?

On a twilight ridge, their silhouettes resemble less a night patrol

Of mechanized calvary than a band of prehistoric savages

Following flaming torches homeward toward a settlement of caves.

What clumsy orgiastic dances will they perform in solemn parade

As they dismount their constantly caterwauling carbon driven steeds?

What ancient creed of brutal rage will their sorties satisfy?

Or will they merely run out of gas and, knocking the snow off their boots,

Pass blindly from the world of ice-shagged trees into incandescent rooms

Of refrigerated beers, television pundits, and a clock face reversed in a mirror,

Its baton hands ticking backwards to point to a future of lost time?

The Ring Cycle

A group of people I don’t know in a place I’ve never been

hold hands and sing the song “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”

They form a ring in a public square, some whispering the tune,

their voices like altar candles, their faces wet with rain, others belting

the lyrics like bazookas filled with good cheer. It isn’t clear

from the different levels of enthusiasm how long the performance will last.

Stragglers attach themselves to the chorus, join for a verse or two,

and then politely disappear into the normal holiday foot traffic,

not like subatomic particles discharged into the quantum air

but more like energetic dizzied bees stopping by to see what the fuss is about,

and noting that there is nothing which these carolers surround,

nothing but their own voices which fill the deserted square,

they learn the same lesson repeated each liturgical year:

the unwrapping of a mystery reveals the disappointment there.

I overhear a passerby exclaim to her husband and her dog,

“Is that it?” And I want to say, “Yes.” But instead, I stand aside

and think, “Even the worst among us is as good as the rest.”

And as I, one of those strangers afraid to join or get too close,

meander aimlessly away, the refrain nonetheless follows my every step,

“And if you’ve no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”


Keith Dunlap's first collection of poems, Storyland, was published in June 2016 by Hip Pocket Press. A chapbook, My Father’s Death My Brother’s Death My Own followed in 2018. His work has appeared in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The Baltimore Review, The Brooklyn Review, The Carolina Quarterly, The Georgetown Review, Jabberwock Review, Poet Lore, Sou’wester, and The Tule Review among other places. He lives in Portland, Maine.


bottom of page