The Inner Part

Louis Simpson

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 shirtsleeves,
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, a Jamaican-born U.S. poet and critic, won the 1964 Pulitzer Prize for At the End of the Open Road.

“The Inner Part” from At the End of the Open Road © 1963 by Louis Simpson and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.