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)
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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