Child, We’ve Done Our Best

Delmore Schwartz

Heart’s Needle 2

by W. D. Snodgrass

 Late April and you are three; today
         We dug your garden in the yard.
    To curb the damage of your play,
Strange dogs at night and the moles tunneling,   
    Four slender sticks of lath stand guard   
         Uplifting their thin string.

    So you were the first to tramp it down.
         And after the earth was sifted close   
    You brought your watering can to drown
All earth and us. But these mixed seeds are pressed   
    With light loam in their steadfast rows.
         Child, we’ve done our best.

    Someone will have to weed and spread
         The young sprouts. Sprinkle them in the hour   
    When shadow falls across their bed.
You should try to look at them every day   
    Because when they come to full flower
         I will be away.


Do you ever feel like you just can’t get ahead of the sequence in which the order of things would make sense?   I wanted to plant a few fruit trees this spring, but the cold, wet, late spring has made that complicated.   I got 6 trees planted yesterday, blustery, rainy mid-40’s cloudy day, perfect for bare root trees, not so perfect for the gardener.   Now I have to figure out how to keep the deer off them until I can build a proper deer fence.   All my intentions for positioning the orchard were thrown out the window by unexpected complications in designing a new septic field.   We’ll see who wins, but it would have been so much easier if I could have built the fence first, then then plant the trees.     


 

Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day

By Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966)
 
 
Calmly we walk through this April’s day,   
Metropolitan poetry here and there,   
In the park sit pauper and rentier,   
The screaming children, the motor-car   
Fugitive about us, running away,   
Between the worker and the millionaire   
Number provides all distances,   
It is Nineteen Thirty-Seven now,   
Many great dears are taken away,   
What will become of you and me
(This is the school in which we learn …)   
Besides the photo and the memory?
(… that time is the fire in which we burn.)
 
(This is the school in which we learn …)   
What is the self amid this blaze?
What am I now that I was then
Which I shall suffer and act again,
The theodicy I wrote in my high school days   
Restored all life from infancy,
The children shouting are bright as they run   
(This is the school in which they learn …)   
Ravished entirely in their passing play!
(… that time is the fire in which they burn.)
 
Avid its rush, that reeling blaze!
Where is my father and Eleanor?
Not where are they now, dead seven years,   
But what they were then?
                                     No more? No more?
From Nineteen-Fourteen to the present day,   
Bert Spira and Rhoda consume, consume
Not where they are now (where are they now?)   
But what they were then, both beautiful;
 
Each minute bursts in the burning room,   
The great globe reels in the solar fire,   
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)   
What am I now that I was then?   
May memory restore again and again   
The smallest color of the smallest day:   
Time is the school in which we learn,   
Time is the fire in which we burn

Would You Be So Kind

William DeWitt Snodgrass (1926 – 2009)

in darkness and in hedges
I sang my sour tone
and all my love was howling
conspicuously alone

W. D. Snodgrass

Mementos, 1

By W. D. Snodgrass

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,
In that long gown of green lace netting and daisies
    That you wore to our first dance. The sight of you stunned   
Us all. Well, our needs were different, then,
             And our ideals came easy.

Then through the war and those two long years
    Overseas, the Japanese dead in their shacks   
Among dishes, dolls, and lost shoes; I carried
    This glimpse of you, there, to choke down my fear,   
Prove it had been, that it might come back.
             That was before we got married.

—Before we drained out one another’s force   
    With lies, self-denial, unspoken regret
And the sick eyes that blame; before the divorce
    And the treachery. Say it: before we met. Still,   
I put back your picture. Someday, in due course,
             I will find that it’s still there.


I am afraid W. D. Snodgrass falls into one of voids of 20th Century poets who when I read their name for the first time, I go ….”who?”.   After reading some of his poems,  I can say he would not rank even in my top 200 favorite poets,  but I do admire his sense of humor.   Snodgrass did what average white male poets could do back then, have a long, mediocre successful career and then fade away into obscurity.   In reality he achieved a far bit, or it says so on the internet.  I enjoyed him poking fun at himself and his colleagues in the poem below, while maintaining the style for which he was being ridiculed. I am willing to wager part of the joke is the way he placed the words upon the page.   My assessment in my brief tour of Snodgrass land is that he lived the American dream, what most of us aspire;  Do something we enjoy, get paid enough to live a good life from it and then get out of the way for the next generation and fade into the very obscurity from which we emerged.   


The Poet Ridiculed by Hysterical Academics

by W. D. Snodgrass

…….. ,,,,, . 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?

                                    Where, where is the long, flowing hair,
                                        The velvet suit, the broad bow tie;
                                    Where is the other-worldly air,
                                        Where the abstracted eye?

Describe the influence on your verse
    Of Oscar Mudwarp’s mighty line,
The theories of Susan Schmersch
    Or the spondee’s decline.

         You’ve labored to present us with
             This mouse-sized volume; shall this equal
         The epic glories of Joe Smith?
             He’s just brought out a sequel.

                  Where are the beard, the bongo drums,
                      Tattered T-shirt and grubby sandals,
                  As who, released from Iowa, comes
                      To tell of wondrous scandals?

Have you subversive, out of date,
    Or controversial ideas?
And can you really pull your weight
    Among such minds as these?

                                    Ah, what avails the tenure race,
                                        Ah, what the Ph.D.,
                                    When all departments have a place
                                        For nincompoops like thee?