Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Poem A Day #10

Every writer I know has a favorite Theodore Roethke poem.  One that they know well, that they've studied and poked at and that has crept into a corner of their own style.  Most have several.  His poems are accessible, beautiful, direct, subversive, and indelible, so influential they have become a part of nearly everything since.

This is my favorite Roethke, at the moment (these things are known to change).  It's not as elegant or technically perfect as "The Waking;" not as rich and laden with image as "Root Cellar;" not as lucidly moving and somber as "Elegy for Jane;" but I love it for its voice, and for its humor.  Think of it as another scene in the world of yesterday's poem, taking place across town.


When I put her out, once, by the garbage pail,
She looked so limp and bedraggled,
So foolish and trusting, like a sick poodle,
Or a wizened aster in late September,
I brought her back in again
For a new routine--
Vitamins, water, and whatever
Sustenance seemed sensible
At the time: she'd lived
So long on gin, bobbie pins, half-smoked cigars, dead beer,
Her shriveled petals falling
On the faded carpet, the stale
Steak grease stuck to her fuzzy leaves.
(Dried-out, she creaked like a tulip.)

The things she endured!--
The dumb dames shrieking half the night
Or the two of us, alone, both seedy,
Me breathing booze at her,
She leaning out of her pot toward the window.

Near the end, she seemed almost to hear me--
And that was scary--
So when that snuffling cretin of a maid
Threw her, pot and all, into the trash-can,
I said nothing.

But I sacked the presumptuous hag the next week,
I was that lonely.

- Theodore Roethke

Tomorrow we'll get out of noir-world for a while, go somewhere with colors.

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