A Locked House

By W. D. Snodgrass 1926–2009
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)

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Poet W. D. Snodgrass 1926–2009

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Subjects Marriage & Companionship, Home Life, Separation & Divorce, Men & Women, Living, Relationships

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Couplet, Confessional

 W. D. Snodgrass

Biography

W. D. Snodgrass is often credited with being one of the founding members of the "confessional" school of poetry, even though he dislikes the term confessional and does not regard his work as such. Nevertheless, his Pulitzer Prize-winning first collection, Heart's Needle, has had a tremendous impact on that particular facet of contemporary poetry. "Like other confessional poets, Snodgrass is at pains to reveal the repressed, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Marriage & Companionship, Home Life, Separation & Divorce, Men & Women, Living, Relationships

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Couplet, Confessional

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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