Monday

May 21, 2001

Song For the Squeeze Box

by Theodore Roethke

MONDAY, 21 MAY 2001
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Songs For the Squeeze-Box," by Theodore Roethke, from Collected Poems (Anchor).

Songs For The Squeeze-Box

It wasn't Ernest; it wasn't Scott—
The boys I knew when I went to pot;
They didn't boast, they didn't snivel,
But stepped right up and swung at the Devil;
And after exchanging a punch or two,
They all sat down like me and you
—And began to drink up the money.

It wasn't the Colony; it wasn't the Stork;
It wasn't the joints in New York, New York;
But me and a girl friend learned a lot
In Ecorse, Toledo, and Wynadotte
—About getting rid of our money.

It was jump-in-the-hedge; it was wait-in-the-hall;
It was "Would you believe it—fawther's tall!"
(It turned out she hadn't a father at all)
—But how she could burn up the money!

A place I surely did like to go
Was the underbelly of Cicero;
And East St. Louis and Monongahela
Had the red-hot spots where you feel a
—Lot like losing some money.

Oh, the Synco Septet played for us then,
And even the boys turned out to be men
As we sat there drinking that bathtub gin
—And loosened up with our money.

It was Samoots Matuna and Bugs Moran;
It was Fade me another and Stick out your can;
It was Place and Show and Also Ran
—For you never won with that money.

Oh, it wasn't a crime, it wasn't a sin,
And nobody slipped me a Mickey Finn,
For whenever I could, I dealt them all in
—On that chunk of Grandpa's money.

It was Dead Man's Corner, it was Kelly's Stable;
It was Stand on your feet as long as you're able,
But many a man rolled under the table
—When he tried to drink up the money.

To some it may seem a sad thing to relate,
The dough I spent on Chippewa Kate,
For she finally left town on the Bay City freight
—When she thought I'd run out of money.

The doctors, the lawyers, the cops are all paid—
So I've got to get me a rich ugly old maid
Who isn't unwilling, who isn't afraid
—To help me eat up her money.

It's the birthday of actor and comic writer Al Franken, born in New York City (1951) and raised in Minneapolis. He was a writer and performer for many years on Saturday Night Live, on which he played the character Stuart Smalley, a therapist with a talk show on a public access cable station.

It's the birthday of poet Robert Creeley, born in Arlington, Massachusetts (1926).

It's the birthday of Harold Robbins, born in New York City (1916). He's the author of The Carpet-baggers (1961), and other best-selling books.

It's the birthday of ethnologist Frances Densmore, born in Red Wing, Minnesota (1867). She devoted 60 years of her life to traveling from village to village recording the songs of Sioux Indians.

It's the birthday of the first English poet to make his living from writing: Alexander Pope, born in London (1688). He was known as the chief poet of his day by the time he was 30 for having composed the verse masterpiece The Rape of the Lock (1714). Later he issued translations of Homer's Illiad (1720) and Odyssey (1726), which sold so well they supported him for the rest of his life.

It's the birthday of Dante Alighieri, born in Florence (1265) to a wealthy banker. The first time he saw his lifelong love, Beatrice Portinari, they were both nine years old; they met only one other time, nine years later. Beatrice married another man, and Dante married another woman, but Dante's feelings for Beatrice, who died when he was 25, only intensified. His unrequited passion is recounted in La Vita Nuova, or The New Life (1293). He was a political exile from Florence when he wrote his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy (1310-14). Shortly after completing the third section, Paradiso, Dante died of Malaria at the age of 55.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »