To the Mannequins

By Howard Nemerov 1920–1991 Howard Nemerov
Adorable images,
Plaster of Paris
Lilies of the field,
You are not alive, therefore
Pathos will be out of place.

But I have learned
A strange fact about your fate,
And it is this:

After you go out of fashion
Beneath your many fashions,
Or when your elbows and knees
Have been bruised powdery white,
So that you are no good to anybody—

They will take away your gowns,
Your sables and bathing suits,
Leaving exposed before all men
Your inaccessible bellies
And pointless nubilities.

Movers will come by night
And load you all into trucks
And take you away to the Camps,
Where soldiers, or the State Police,
Will use you as targets
For small-arms practice,

Leading me to inquire,
Since pathos is out of place,
What it is that they are practicing.

November 1961

“To the Mannequins” from The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov. Reprinted by per- mission of University of Chicago Press.

Source: Poetry (April 2012).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2012
 Howard  Nemerov


Howard Nemerov was a highly acclaimed poet often cited for the range of his capabilities and subject matter, "from the profound to the poignant to the comic," James Billington remarked in his frequently quoted announcement of Nemerov's appointment to the post of United States poet laureate. A distinguished professor at Washington University in St. Louis from 1969 to 1990, Nemerov wrote poetry and fiction that managed to engage . . .

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SUBJECT Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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