Tuesday, January 13, 2009

W.D. Snodgrass: 1926-2009


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,
Younger and pinker every year,
Bloom gradually out of reach.
The pear tree lets its petals drop
Like dandruff on a tabletop.

The girls have grown so young by now
I have to nudge myself to stare.
This year they smile and mind me how
My teeth are falling with my hair.
In thirty years I may not get
Younger, shrewder, or out of debt.

The tenth time, just a year ago,
I made myself a little list
Of all the things I'd ought to know,
Then told my parents, analyst,
And everyone who's trusted me
I'd be substantial, presently.

I haven't read one book about
A book or memorized one plot.
Or found a mind I did not doubt.
I learned one date.And then forgot.
And one by one the solid scholars
Get the degrees, the jobs, the dollars.

And smile above their starchy collars.
I taught my classes Whitehead's notions;
One lovely girl, a song of Mahler's.
Lacking a source-book or promotions,
I showed one child the colors of
A luna moth and how to love.

I taught myself to name my name,
To bark back, loosen love and crying;
To ease my woman so she came,
To ease an old man who was dying.
I have not learned how often I
Can win, can love, but choose to die.

I have not learned there is a lie
Love shall be blonder, slimmer, younger;
That my equivocating eye
Loves only by my body's hunger;
That I have forces true to feel,
Or that the lovely world is real.

While scholars speak authority
And wear their ulcers on their sleeves,
My eyes in spectacles shall see
These trees procure and spend their leaves.
There is a value underneath
The gold and silver in my teeth.

Though trees turn bare and girls turn wives,
We shall afford our costly seasons;
There is a gentleness survives
That will outspeak and has its reasons.
There is a loveliness exists,
Preserves us, not for specialists.


Blogger Leslie said...

Ah, that last stanza.

We shall afford our costly seasons;


7:18 AM  
Blogger Cindy Hunter Morgan said...

Thank you, W.D. Snodgrass.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Cindy Hunter Morgan said...

Ah! I clicked off your clog, picked up todays New York Times, and found (and read) "Cataloging The Insults (And Joys) Of Old Age," Dwight Garner's review of "Somewhere Towards the End," the memoir by Diana Athill. The review is worth reading. I imagine the memoir is too.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Cindy Hunter Morgan said...

Oops...I did not click off your clog. I clicked off your blog. I hope you have boots on today, not clogs.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Keith Woodruff said...

That's always been my favorite poem of his.

9:08 AM  
Blogger DEEDEE said...

Hi Greg, I'm trying again. Snodgrass was my teacher a Wayne State back in 1965. I still remember his presentations and the poems he read to us.

See you at the AWP! It's 9 below zero in Detroit.

10:03 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home