A Deserter

By Charles Reznikoff 1894–1976 Charles Reznikoff
Their new landlord was a handsome man. On his rounds to
    collect rent she became friendly.
Finally, she asked him in to have a cup of tea. After that he
    came often.

Once his mouth jerked, and turning, she saw her husband in
    the doorway.   
She thought, One of the neighbors must have told him.
She smiled and opened her mouth to speak, but could say
Her husband stood looking at the floor. He turned and went

She lay awake all night waiting for him.
In the morning she went to his store. It was closed.
She sent for his brothers and told them he had not been home.
    They went to the police. Hospitals and morgues were
    searched. For weeks they were called to identify drowned

His business had been prosperous; bank account and all were
    untouched. She and their baby girl were provided for.
In a few years they heard of him. He was dead.
He had been making a poor living in a far off city. One day he
    stepped in front of a street-car and was killed.

She married again. Her daughter married and had children.
    She named none after her father.

From The Poems of Charles Reznikoff by Charles Reznikoff, edited by Seamus Cooney. Reprinted by permission of Black Sparrow Books, an imprint of David R. Godine, Publisher, Inc. Copyright 2005 by Charles Reznikoff.

Source: Poems 1918-1975: The Complete Poems of Charles Reznikoff (Black Sparrow Press, 1977)

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Poet Charles Reznikoff 1894–1976

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Subjects Relationships, Men & Women

 Charles  Reznikoff


Emerson remarked that the best writers often have the shortest biographies. The genius “draws up the ladder after him,” and the world, which had consigned him to obscurity during his lifetime, “sees the works and asks in vain for a history.”
Whatever judgment may ultimately be passed upon him, not much more than his works is ever likely to be known of Charles Reznikoff. He left no fervent disciples. The record he wished to . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Men & Women

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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