Upon Seeing a Photo of Mrs. Ocey Snead and Daughter by Lori Baker Martin


Mrs. Ocey Snead was murdered in 1909 by her mother and aunts. For $30,000 in life insurance money, they starved her, gave her opium, and drowned her in a bathtub.


Mrs. Ocey Snead dreamed of water
for weeks. She’d wake, still awash
in her iron bed, her hair
trailing like algae, and the babe
at her breast a suckling fish.

In dreams, her hands swam,
hollow boned, and empty.
Everything was water.
Even the walls were oceans,
undulating, tidal, and sometimes
from the depths, weeping.

Only the drowning see God,
the heaving shadows declare.
Mrs. Ocey Snead parted the water,
and God was there,
a small man, at the bottom.


This poem first appeared in The Midwest Quarterly.

Lori Baker Martin is assistant professor of English at Pittsburg State University. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin, (parenthetical), The Little Balkans Review, Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, The Maine Review, Midwest Quarterly, Kansas Time + Place, 150 Kansas Poets, and in a Kansas Notable Book poetry collection To the Stars Through Difficulties. Martin has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Independence Community College, and Pittsburg State University. She has worked as a reader for both The Iowa Review and NPR. Martin has been awarded for her work in The Cincinnati Review and Kansas Voices.  She is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop where she was named a Truman Capote Fellow and received the Clark Fischer Ansley Award for Excellence in Fiction. Martin is poetry editor for The Midwest Quarterly and she is currently finishing a novel set in pre-Civil War Missouri.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. He was President of the Kansas Authors Club 2016-2017. His latest book of poetry, Stage Whispers (Meadowlark-Books, 2019), contains “…handsomely crafted poems…Dense with images, intimate and honest…” (Kathryn Kysar). His chapbook, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) comprises ekphrastic poems inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels. His first poetry collection, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014), was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016.



2 thoughts on “Upon Seeing a Photo of Mrs. Ocey Snead and Daughter by Lori Baker Martin

  1. Absolutely wonderful! Startling images that work brilliantly to capture the emotional essence beneath. I love this poem.

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