Gary Snyder’s Earring

First published in Spring: The Journal of the E. E. Cummings Society, #23, Fall 2020 [actually December 2021], page 121. Originally written in September of 2011 at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, Washington.


The photo of Snyder

at Elliott Bay bookstore

shows him with pen in hand,


an earring in his left ear,

that slight circle of silver.

I want to ask him

when he got his piercing,

and why, and wonder

too, if I should get one.


Perhaps I shouldn’t assume

it changed his life,

as I think it would mine,

gaining me some sort

of hallowed admission

to the beat old boys.

Maybe Gary Snyder’s earring

was nothing more cathartic

than combing his hair,

nothing more than writing

his next protest

or meditation—

no decoder ring needed

for the club he’s in.


When I was a boy

only pirates had earrings,

and not once

did I ever dream

of being a pirate.