For Laurel and Hardy on My Workroom Wall

By David Wagoner b. 1926 David Wagoner
They’re tipping their battered derbies and striding forward
    In step for a change, chipper, self-assured,
         Their cardboard suitcases labeled
Guest of Steerage. They’ve just arrived at the boot camp
    Of the good old French Foreign Legion
         Which they’ve chosen as their slice of life
Instead of drowning themselves. Once again
    They’re about to become their own mothers and fathers
         And their own unknowable children
Who will rehearse sad laughter and mock tears,
    Will frown with completely unsuccessful
         Concentration, and will practice the amazement
Of suddenly understanding everything
    That baffles them and will go on baffling them
         While they pretend they’re only one reel away
From belonging in the world. Their arrival
    Will mark a new beginning of meaningless
         Hostilities with a slaphappy ending. In a moment,
They’ll hear music, and as if they’d known all along
    This was what they’d come for, they’ll put down
         The mops and buckets given them as charms
With which to cleanse the Sahara and move their feet
    With a calm, sure, delicate disregard
         For all close-order drill and begin dancing.

Source: Poetry (April 2001).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2001 issue of Poetry magazine

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April 2001
 David  Wagoner


David Wagoner is recognized as the leading poet of the Pacific Northwest, often compared to his early mentor Theodore Roethke, and highly praised for his skillful, insightful and serious body of work. He has won numerous prestigious literary awards including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and the Academy of Arts and Letters Award, and has twice been nominated for the National Book Award. The author of ten . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Popular Culture, Humor & Satire, War & Conflict, Arts & Sciences

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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