Mementos, 1


Sorting out letters and piles of my old
      Canceled checks, old clippings, and yellow note cards
That meant something once, I happened to find
      Your picture. That picture. I stopped there cold,
Like a man raking piles of dead leaves in his yard
            Who has turned up a severed hand.

Still, the first second, I was glad: you stand
      Just as you stood–shy, delicate, slender,
In that long gown of green lace netting and daisies
      That you wore to our first dance. The sight of you stunned
Us all. Well, our needs were different then,
            And our ideals came easy.

Then through the war and those two long years
      Overseas, the Japanese dead in their shacks
Among dishes, dolls, and lost shoes; I carried
      This glimpse of you, there, to choke down my fear,
Prove it had been, that it might come back.
            That was before we got married.

–Before we drained out one another's force
      With lies, self-denial, unspoken regret
And the sick eyes that blame; before the divorce
      And the treachery. Say it: before we met. Still,
I put back your picture. Someday, in due course,
            I will find that it's still there.


W.D. Snodgrass, Selected Poems 1957-1987, Soho Press, 1991.