Who Steals My Good Name

By W. D. Snodgrass 1926–2009

For the person who obtained my debit card number and spent $11,000 in five days

My pale stepdaughter, just off the school bus,   
Scowled, "Well, that's the last time I say my name's   
Snodgrass!" Just so, may that anonymous   
Mexican male who prodigally claims   

My clan lines, identity and the sixteen   
Digits that unlock my bank account,   
Think twice. That less than proper name's been   
Taken by three ex-wives, each for an amount   

Past all you've squandered, each more than pleased   
To change it back. That surname you affect   
May have more consequence than getting teased   
By dumb kids or tracked down by bank detectives.   

Don't underrate its history: one of ours played   
Piano on his prison's weekly broadcast;   
One got rich on a scammed quiz show; one made   
A bungle costing the World Series. My own past   

Could subject you to guilt by association:   
If you write anything more than false checks,   
Abandon all hope of large press publication   
Or prizes—critics shun the name like sex

Without a condom. Whoever steals my purse   
Helps chain me to my writing desk again   
For fun and profit. So take thanks with my curse:   
May your pen name help send you to your pen.

Source: Poetry (April 2003).

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2003 issue of Poetry magazine

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April 2003
 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 Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries, Humor & Satire

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Epistle

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