W. D. Snodgrass

W
W. D. Snodgrass
Song
Sweet beast, I have gone prowling,
a proud rejected man
who lived along the edges
catch as catch can;
in darkness and in hedges
I sang my sour tone
and all my love was howling
conspicuously alone.
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Pacemaker
I

"One Snodgrass, two Snodgrass, three Snodgrass, four . . .
I took my own rollcall when I counted seconds;
"One two three, Two two three, Three . . .," the drum score
Showed only long rests to the tympani's entrance.

"Oh-oh-oh leff; leff; leff-toh-righ-toh-leff,"
The sergeant cadenced us footsore recruits;
The heart, poor drummer, gone lame, deaf,
Then AWOL, gets frogmarched to the noose.

II

Old coots, at the Veterans', might catch breath
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Who Steals My Good Name
For the person who obtained my debit card number and spent $11,000 in five days My pale stepdaughter, just off the school bus,
Scowled, "Well, that's the last time I say my name's
Snodgrass!" Just so, may that anonymous
Mexican male who prodigally claims
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“After Experience Taught Me ...”
After experience taught me that all the ordinary
Surroundings of social life are futile and vain;

I’m going to show you something very
Ugly: someday, it might save your life.

Seeing that none of the things I feared contain
In themselves anything either good or bad

What if you get caught without a knife;
Nothing—even a loop of piano wire;
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April Inventory
The green catalpa tree has turned
All white; the cherry blooms once more.
In one whole year I haven’t learned
A blessed thing they pay you for.
The blossoms snow down in my hair;
The trees and I will soon be bare.

The trees have more than I to spare.
The sleek, expensive girls I teach,
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The Campus on the Hill
Up the reputable walks of old established trees
They stalk, children of the nouveaux riches; chimes
Of the tall Clock Tower drench their heads in blessing:
“I don't wanna play at your house;
I don't like you any more.”
My house stands opposite, on the other hill,
Among meadows, with the orchard fences down and falling;
Deer come almost to the door.
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Dr. Joseph Goebbels (22 April 1945)
(On this date, Goebbels moved into the lowest level of the bunker, taking a room opposite Hitler’s.) Stand back, make way, you mindless scum,
Squire Voland the Seducer’s come—
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Heart’s Needle
For Cynthia

When he would not return to fine garments and good food, to his houses and his people, Loingseachan told him, “Your father is dead.” “I’m sorry to hear it,” he said. “Your mother is dead,” said the lad. “All pity for me has gone out of the world.” “Your sister, too, is dead.” “The mild sun rests on every ditch,” he said; “a sister loves even though not loved.” “Suibhne, your daughter is dead.” “And an only daughter is the needle of the heart.” “And Suibhne, your little boy, who used to call you “Daddy”—he is dead.” “Aye,” said Suibhne, “that’s the drop that brings a man to the ground.”
He fell out of the yew tree; Loingseachan closed his arms around him and placed him in manacles.—AFTER THE MIDDLE-IRISH ROMANCE, THE MADNESS OF SUIBHNE
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A Locked House
As we drove back, crossing the hill,
The house still
Hidden in the trees, I always thought—
A fool’s fear—that it might have caught
Fire, someone could have broken in.
As if things must have been
Too good here. Still, we always found
It locked tight, safe and sound.
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Magda Goebbels (30 April 1945)
(After Dr. Haase gave them shots of morphine, Magda gave each child an ampule of potassium cyanide from a spoon.) This is the needle that we give
Soldiers and children when they live
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Mementos, 1
Sorting out letters and piles of my old
Canceled checks, old clippings, and yellow note cards
That meant something once, I happened to find
Your picture. That picture. I stopped there cold,
Like a man raking piles of dead leaves in his yard
Who has turned up a severed hand.

Still, that first second, I was glad: you stand
Just as you stood—shy, delicate, slender,
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Monet: “Les Nymphéas”
The eyelids glowing, some chill morning.
O world half-known through opening, twilit lids
Before the vague face clenches into light;
O universal waters like a cloud,
Like those first clouds of half-created matter;
O all things rising, rising like the fumes
From waters falling, O forever falling;
Infinite, the skeletal shells that fall, relinquished,
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The Poet Ridiculed by Hysterical Academics
Is it, then, your opinion
Women are putty in your hands?
Is this the face to launch upon
A thousand one night stands?

First, please, would you be so kind
As to define your contribution
To modern verse, the Western mind
And human institutions?
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Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring (1 April 1945)
(Göring, head of the Luftwaffe, once bragged that if one German city were bombed, they could call him “Meier.” At his Karinhall estate, he questions himself and his disgrace.) And why, Herr Reichsmarschall, is Italy
Just like schnitzel? If they’re beaten
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Song
Observe the cautious toadstools
still on the lawn today
though they grow over-evening;
sun shrinks them away.
Pale and proper and rootless,
they righteously extort
their living from the living.
I have been their sort.
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Vuillard: “The Mother and Sister of the Artist”
(Instructions for the Visit) Admire, when you come here, the glimmering hair
Of the girl; praise her pale
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Nightwatchman's Song
After Heinrich I. F. Biber I

What’s unseen may not exist—
Or so those secret powers insist
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