The Inner Part


When they had won the war
And for the first time in history
Americans were the most important people–

When the leading citizens no longer lived in their shirt sleeves,
And their wives did not scratch in public;
Just when they'd stopped saying "Gosh!"–

When their daughters seemed as sensitive
As the tip of a fly rod,
And their sons were as smooth as a V-8 engine–

Priests, examining the entrails of birds,
Found the heart misplaced, and seeds
As black as death, emitting a strange odor.


Louis Simpson, The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001, BOA Editions, 2003.