By W. D. Snodgrass 1926–2009

"One Snodgrass, two Snodgrass, three Snodgrass, four . . .
       I took my own rollcall when I counted seconds;   
"One two three, Two two three, Three . . .," the drum score   
       Showed only long rests to the tympani's entrance.   

"Oh-oh-oh leff; leff; leff-toh-righ-toh-leff,"   
       The sergeant cadenced us footsore recruits;   
The heart, poor drummer, gone lame, deaf,   
       Then AWOL, gets frogmarched to the noose.   


Old coots, at the Veterans', might catch breath   
       If their cheeks got slapped by a nurse's aide,   
Then come back to life; just so, at their birth,   
       Young rumps had been tendered warm accolades.   

The kick-ass rude attitude, smart-assed insult,   
       The acid-fueled book review just might shock   
Us back to the brawl like smelling salts,   
       Might sting the lulled heart up off its blocks.   


I thought I'd always favor rubato   
       Or syncopation, scorning fixed rhythms;   
               Thought my old heartthrobs could stand up to stress;   
Believed one's bloodpump should skip a few beats   
       If it fell into company with sleek young women;   
               Believed my own bruit could beat with the best.   

Wrong again, Snodgrass! This new gold gadget,   
       Snug as the watch on my wife's warm wrist,   
               Drives my pulsetempo near twice its old pace—   
Go, nonstop startwatch! Go, clockwork rabbit,   
       Keeping this lame old dog synchronized,   
               Steady, sparked up, still in the race.

Source: Poetry (October 2002).


This poem originally appeared in the October 2002 issue of Poetry magazine

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October 2002
 W. D. Snodgrass


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 The Body, Living, Health & Illness, Nature, Growing Old

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Poetic Terms Metaphor, Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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