Foolish, frugal Mrs. Mousie, why
would you accept our generous offer, why
trust our least word ever, why
take these green crumbs from our bait trays
bit by bit and bite by bite for a safe deposit
here in our Romanian black clay vase
of things already too good to be true?
How long were you abuilding, how
long since, this unnumbered Swiss account,
your private, smack stash, closed portfolio
of Nourishment and Security,
of Sound Ideas for an Easy Mind?
Poor pirate! With no chart or map's X
we've stumbled onto your best treasure.
No trace of you, though, or your pink
nurslings; our fierce thirsts drove you
back out into fields whose hungers
you'd already fled, where if you became
some fox or coyote's scrap of protein,
you can pass on this Pharaoh's curse--
our taint still seeping through the territory.
Come live with me and be my last
Resource, location and resort,
My workday's focus and steadfast
Distraction to a weekend's sport.
Come end up with me, close my list;
Blank my black book, block every e-mail
From ex-loves whose mouths won't he missed;
Let nothing else alive look female.
Come couch by me mit Freud und Lust
As every evening's' last connection;
Talk to me; prove the day like Proust;
Let what comes next rise to inspection.
Come, let old aftermaths get lost,
Let failures and betrayals mend,
Cancel repayments; clear the cost;
Once more unto the breach, dear friend.
Come lay us down to sleep at least,
Sharing this pillow's picture show;
Who's been my braintrust and best beast?
Who else knows what I need to know?
A Separation Anthem
You can say you've downsized, pink-slipped
each other, trimmed back to fighting weight.
It's no less a catastrophe and nothing in the world
teaches you otherwise. Or more. All the crises
are midlife' crises and restore you to your teens,
rheumatic, rebellious, at loose ends. You could sit
beside each other at diplomatic dinners only
if you arrived on others' arms. The sentence
smoking on your wall means what all
graffiti mean: that your favorite theories
have just disproven and revoked themselves.
Whatever you've, learned from each other
is to be turned from, turned against--
against each other: in the new curriculum.
Whose pillowtalk, now, can substantiate the day done,
the day that's still to do? Love's bornagains,
you re on the lookout for a new obsession.
With the best luck and happy hunting, it's no less
a catastrophe--one that may not kill you
and we wish you every wonder of it.
These lawn chairs and the chaise lounge
of bulky redwood were purchased for my father
twenty years ago, then plumped down in the yard
where he seldom went while he could still work
and never had stayed long. His left arm
in a sling, then lopped off, he smoked there or slept
while the weather lasted, watched what cars passed,
read stock reports, counted pills,
then dozed again. I didn't go there
in those last weeks, sick of the delusions
they still maintained, their talk of plans
for some boat tour or a trip to the Bahamas
once he'd recovered. Under our willows,
this old set's done well: we've sat with company,
read or taken notes--although the arm rests
get dry and splintery or wheels drop off
so the whole frame's weakened if it's hauled
across rough ground. Of course the trees,
too, may not last: leaves storm down,
branches crack off, the riddled bark
separates, then gets shed. I have a son, myself,
with things to be looked after. I sometimes think
since I've retired, sitting in the shade here
and feeling the winds shift, I must have been filled
with a child's dread you could catch somebody's dying
if you got too dose. And you can't be too sure.
Our neighbor's slim rag doll of a daughter (not,
we're told, of his own getting) breathed out: "You've got
so many cookbooks!"--each eye a startled O
as it skimmed our kitchen shelves--"And so
much food!" Later, straight-faced, she said her mother
lives now with her new boyfriend in another
county. Hard up for farm jobs, her "Dad" has to drive
60 miles to the factory, getting up at 5
AM to leave them where his folks watch after them
until he gets back home--sometimes 5 PM.
We go for long Walks every evening. If we pass
their trailer, they all tumble out shouting, "Snodgrass!
Snodgrass!" The slim, straight-faced one is thought slow
by her teachers. There's much she'd do well not to know.
The cool offspring of our city friends are driven
to special schools, sports dates, parties, given
phones, computers, cars, the insatiate stuff
that will guarantee they can't ever get enough.
Our neighbors' less keen hungers and kinder drives
make sure they'll make nothing of their lives but lives.
As the day-laborers in our loft pried loose
the hand-split, slivery lath, the gray,
unpainted plaster, it all came cascading
over their bent heads like Yahvesh's judgments
or Zeus's showers on the naked Danae:
dead flies, snakeskins, bat shit, a boy's clodhopper,
The Christian Messenger for Nineteen-O-Two,
sex magazines, a gnarled cane, then a cat's
carcass--a tattered fur sack
flapped around the bones and fanged skull, all
fat and tissues gone. Heavy, heavy
what hung over, long years, like an angel's perch
or sniper's blind, bare inches from our heads!
Prowled, say, into some dark cranny, snarled tight,
the dead flesh nibbled off by mice, its past prey? Or
battered by some farmchild, sparing his rough parents,
buried where no one could know? No; a tramp cat,
crept in out of whetted winds, snow-clotted woods, then
frozen in its shelter, soon one part of our insulation.
The workmen, smirking, must have wedged it back in
overhead--their deterctor watchcat for cold forces,
for hungers that go along with us--thou castoff
cat of catastrophes, calvaries, scapecat,
lar and caretaker spokescat, O be kind!--
sealed into our new ceiling's 2X4s and plywood
to which we do not lift our eyes.
W.D. SNODGRASS is the author of more than twenty books of poetry,
including The Fuehrer Bunker: The Complete Cycle (1995); Each in His
Season (1993); After Experience (1968); and Heart's Needle (1959), which
won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. His honors include an Ingram Merrill
Foundation award and fellowships from The Academy of American Poets, the
Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Institute of
Arts and Letters, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in
upstate New York.