Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Three Poems

Margaret E. Haughawout


Why not sit quietly with them and trail
Your smoke across the air as others do?
For smoke is beautiful. Why such to-do
With scratching of your match? Your gestures fail,
I say, to make your point. Those bred within
These narrow stairs and crooked streets don't wear
With such éclat what your youth labelled sin.
Your leering puffs, your little finger's dare,
Your glittering italics on the word
You might not use before-this but betrays
The Presbyterian cradle-roll that reached
You in a Midwest town, the Kansas ways
You now despise. A little nasal bird
Tells tale-your father must have taught or preached.


I wonder if she knows, up there, how he
Must paw among the spoons, discards my set
Of chaste design, brows knit perplexedly­
Must have that one of Rogers plate-all fret
Until he spies its battered bowl. Or that
Grief pierced his blue-eyed smile when the stone soap-dish,
Black-berry painted, fell and broke, sole piece
Left of her bedroom set. I sometimes wish
She'd see his thin hands cherish things that were
Once hers, old-fashioned, useless bits from years
Of his neglect. Does this now comfort her?
Or, even before the throne, I wonder, flares
Her beautiful disdain? Does she, brown-eyed,
High-spirited, even now, his old delay deride?


You come here often, burrow among my books, Ask
what’s worth while, show patience at my last New
flame-some poems, a novel. You like this bit Of
Rookwood etching, I've acquired. But I stir
Your mind's best fire when I uncover some
New book on God. I'll not disclose this! For
So gladly you claim atheist, agnostic,
Any word good Christian gentlemen avoid, I
would not clip your wings for any price! I'll
get my joy in having found you out–­ In
sitting back in that armchair, looking
Through the mists, enjoying you as you are.

When I tune in on the Boston Symphony
With Kreisler, you displace me tactfully,
And get some Brooklyn parson. No matter what
I start, you get some scathing fact about God
By the scruff of the neck and drag it in.
A schoolboy you, whose farthest word soon veers
To Her. Among all the men I know God has
Not one who watches, takes His pulse, and guards
His temperature as do you. In Heaven’s name,
Why not forget? Why not let God alone?

Margaret Haughawout

Lost Writers of the Plains is a collaboration between Prairie Schooner, the Center for Great Plains Studies, and NET Nebraska. These poems, by Margaret Haughawout, appeared in the Winter 1931 issue of Prairie Schooner. For more on Haughawout and her life, click here. To view the entire Lost Writers of the Plains project, visit the NET Nebraska website.