Snodgrass, whose first book of poems won the Pulitzer Prize nearly three decades ago, evinces the full range of his work in this collection: from his early confessional poems to current verses inspired by a series of paintings by DeLoss McGraw. From "Coroner's Inquest":
Who killed Cock Robin?
Don't you blyme me, says the sparrow;
I gone strictly straight-and-narrow,
Reformed, true-blue, a real straight arrow.
I never done that slob in.
Who saw him die?
Not I, certainly, says the fly;
My dear, this polyhedral eye
Can only make things out nearby.
I mind my own bee's wax; that's my
Who'll dig his grave?
I'm committed, says the mole,
To exploring my own hole
Liberated from control
Of any social, prefixed role;
I keep my deep molehood whole
Seeking my true self and soul.
My blind eye's fixed on this goal;
Go find a cave.
Who'll bear his casket?
Count me out there, says the ant.
I'm too small; I simply can't.
With my legion friends, I grant
We might, yet we're all adamant
That unless he should recant
Each lewd song and surreal chant
With their sly, anarchic shan't
So don't ask it.
Who'll say the last words?
Of course I'd like to, says the parrot;
I'm aware that all his merit
Was so rare we can't compare it,
Yet my grief and great despair at
This sad loss, if I should share it,
Is so vast, I couldn't bear it.
Then besides, my friends don't care at
All for anyone who'd dare it.
Those that sing strange songs inherit
Faint praise--few and fast words.