Saturday, February 18, 2012

Crime Club (Weldon Kees)

No butler, no second maid, no blood upon the stair.
No eccentric aunt, no gardener, no family friend
Smiling among the bric-a-brac and murder.
Only a suburban house with the front door open
And a dog barking at a squirrel, and the cars
Passing.  The corpse quite dead.  The wife in Florida.

Consider the clues:  the potato masher in a vase,
The torn photograph of a Wesleyan basketball team,
Scattered with check stubs in the hall;
The unsent fan letter to Shirley Temple,
The Hoover button on the lapel of the deceased,
The note:  "To be killed this way is quite all right with me."

Small wonder that the case remains unsolved,
Or that the sleuth, Le Roux, is now incurably insane,
And sits alone in a white room in a white gown,
Screaming that all the world is mad, that clues
Lead nowhere, or to walls so high their tops cannot be seen;
Screaming all day of war, screaming that nothing can be


From:  The Fall of the Magicians (New York, Reynal & Hitchcock, 1947).  Included in The Collected Poems of Weldon Kees (Lincoln and London, University of Nebraska Press, 1975)


  1. Curtis,

    Love the spooky symmetry of this clue-set.

    Looks like this is Weldon's Week!

  2. Wow. This is something. Your earlier posts got me excited and I read through many of the Collected Poems. It's such a slim volume, so I followed Donald Justice's advice and tried to experience them as a whole and it was gripping. (Still is.) Choosing one (or three) to concentrate on made it more so. You may be familiar with this long article:

    I came across it trying to track down who Norris Getty was.

    Anyway, based on some of the things I faced and was thinking about this week, the Kees poems and story resonated.


  3. Amazingly, when I had my first job interview at the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, the person interviewing me actually sat in front of a green chalkboard featuring a body outline. It was disconcerting. What made the interview even odder was the fact that the ADA with whom I spoke was another refugee art historian from NYU's Institute of Fine Arts. (Definitely the only other one in the office.) He was a very funny, nice person given to flights of gallows humor (it really comes with the job) and began describing certain Criminal Court rituals in terms of the opera Fidelio. I just tried to stay on track and answer the questions correctly. What was great was that it was a one-day interview process. If you didn't wash out, after about eight conversations over eight hours, you were escorted in to meet the DA (Liz Holtzman) who congratulated you and served you coffee and cookies. I'll never forget that day -- January 13, 1982 -- Caroline's birthday and the day that airliner went down in the Potomac. Curtis