Magda Goebbels (30 April 1945)

By W. D. Snodgrass 1926–2009

(After Dr. Haase gave them shots of morphine, Magda gave each child an ampule of potassium cyanide from a spoon.)

This is the needle that we give
Soldiers and children when they live   
Near the front in primitive
    Conditions or real dangers;
This is the spoon we use to feed   
Men trapped in trouble or in need,   
When weakness or bad luck might lead
    Them to the hands of strangers.

This is the room where you can sleep   
Your sleep out, curled up under deep   
Layers of covering that will keep
    You safe till all harm’s past.
This is the bed where you can rest   
In perfect silence, undistressed
By noise or nightmares, as my breast   
    Once held you soft but fast.

This is the Doctor who has brought   
Your needle with your special shot   
To quiet you; you won’t get caught
    Off guard or unprepared.
I am your nurse who’ll comfort you;   
I nursed you, fed you till you grew   
Too big to feed; now you’re all through
    Fretting or feeling scared.

This is the glass tube that contains
Calm that will spread down through your veins   
To free you finally from all pains
    Of going on in error.
This tiny pinprick sets the germ
Inside you that fills out its term
Till you can feel yourself grow firm
    Against all doubt, all terror.

Into this spoon I break the pill   
That stiffens the unsteady will   
And hardens you against the chill
    Voice of a world of lies.
This amber medicine implants   
Steadfastness in your blood; this grants   
Immunity from greed and chance,
    And from all compromise.

This is the serum that can cure
Weak hearts; these pure, clear drops insure   
You’ll face what comes and can endure   
    The test; you’ll never falter.
This is the potion that preserves
You in a faith that never swerves;
This sets the pattern of your nerves
    Too firm for you to alter.

I set this spoon between your tight   
Teeth, as I gave you your first bite;   
This satisfies your appetite
    For other nourishment.
Take this on your tongue; this do   
Remembering your mother who
So loved her Leader she stayed true
    When all the others went,

When every friend proved false, in the   
Delirium of treachery
On every hand, when even He
    Had turned His face aside.
He shut himself in with His whore;
Then, though I screamed outside His door,   
Said He’d not see me anymore.
    They both took cyanide.

Open wide, now, little bird;
I who sang you your first word
Soothe away every sound you’ve heard   
    Except your Leader’s voice.
Close your eyes, now; take your death.   
Once we slapped you to take breath.   
Vengeance is mine, the Lord God saith
    And cancels each last choice.

Once, my first words marked out your mind;   
Just as our Leader’s phrases bind
All hearts to Him, building a blind
    Loyalty through the nation,
We shape you into a pure form.
Trapped, our best soldiers tricked the storm,   
The Reds: those last hours, they felt warm   
    Who stood fast to their station.

You needn’t fear what your life meant;
You won’t curse how your hours were spent;   
You’ll grow like your own monument
    To all things sure and good,
Fixed like a frieze in high relief
Of granite figures that our Chief
Accepts into His true belief,
    His true blood-brotherhood.

You’ll never bite the hand that fed you,   
Won’t turn away from those that bred you,   
Comforted your nights and led you
    Into the thought of virtue;
You won’t be turned from your own bed;   
Won’t turn into that thing you dread;   
No new betrayal lies ahead;
    Now no one else can hurt you.

W.D. Snodgrass, “Magda Goebbels (30 April 1945)” from The Fuehrer Bunker: The Complete Cycle. Copyright © 1995 by W.D. Snodgrass. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.

Source: The Fuehrer Bunker: The Complete Cycle (BOA Editions Ltd., 1995)

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Poet W. D. Snodgrass 1926–2009

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Subjects War & Conflict, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Death, Parenthood, Living

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Persona

 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 War & Conflict, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Death, Parenthood, Living

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Persona

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