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By W. D. Snodgrass

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.


I mentioned that, once, as a joke;   

No doubt we spoke

Of the absurdity

To fear some dour god’s jealousy   

Of our good fortune. From the farm   

Next door, our neighbors saw no harm   

Came to the things we cared for here.   

What did we have to fear?


Maybe I should have thought: all

Such things rot, fall—

Barns, houses, furniture.

We two are stronger than we were

Apart; we’ve grown

Together. Everything we own

Can burn; we know what counts—some such   

Idea. We said as much.


We’d watched friends driven to betray;   

Felt that love drained away

Some self they need.

We’d said love, like a growth, can feed   

On hate we turn in and disguise;

We warned ourselves. That you might despise   

Me—hate all we both loved best—

None of us ever guessed.


The house still stands, locked, as it stood   

Untouched a good

Two years after you went.

Some things passed in the settlement;   

Some things slipped away. Enough’s left   

That I come back sometimes. The theft   

And vandalism were our own.

Maybe we should have known.


W.D. Snodgrass, “A Locked House” from Selected Poems, 1957-1987 (New York: Soho Press, 1987). Copyright © 1987 by W.D. Snodgrass. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Selected Poems 1957-1987 (1987)

Poet Bio

W.D. Snodgrass was born in Pennsylvania and attended the University of Iowa. At Iowa he met Robert Lowell, who admired Snodgrass's poetry and helped publish it in 1959. Snodgrass's poetry is often considered the beginning of the Confessional school of poetry, which would later influence such poets as Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, and even his teacher Lowell. His poetry focuses on intimate, personal experiences, in which the poet reflects on profound aspects of life in a revealing way. But though his poetry has maintained this tone, he moved away from the formal structure of his early verse to a free verse style, as seen in “The Campus on the Hill” and “A Locked House.”

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