By Louis Simpson
On the lawn at the villa—
That’s the way to start, eh, reader?
We know where we stand—somewhere expensive—
You and I imperturbes, as Walt would say,
Before the diversions of wealth, you and I engagés.
On the lawn at the villa
Sat a manufacturer of explosives,
His wife from Paris,
And a young man named Bruno,
And myself, being American,
Willing to talk to these malefactors,
The manufacturer of explosives, and so on,
But somehow superior. By that I mean democratic.
It’s complicated, being an American,
Having the money and the bad conscience, both at the same time.
Perhaps, after all, this is not the right subject for a poem.
We were all sitting there paralyzed
In the hot Tuscan afternoon,
And the bodies of the machine-gun crew were draped over the balcony.
So we sat there all afternoon.
Louis Simpson, “On the Lawn at the Villa” from The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001. Copyright © 2003 by Louis Simpson. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.
Source: Collected Poems (BOA Editions Ltd., 1988)
More By This Poet
To the Western World
A siren sang, and Europe turned away
From the high castle and the shepherd’s crook.
Three caravels went sailing to Cathay
On the strange ocean, and the captains shook
Their banners out across the Mexique Bay.
And in our early days we did the same.
My Father in the Night Commanding No
My father in the night commanding No
Has work to do. Smoke issues from his lips;
He reads in silence.
The frogs are croaking and the street lamps glow.
And then my mother winds the gramophone;
The Bride of Lammermoor begins to shriek—
Or reads a...
More Poems about Social Commentaries
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
The Glories of Our Blood and State
The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings:
Sceptre and Crown
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal...