"Who Steals My Good Name"
For the person who obtained my debit card number and spent $11,000 in five days
My pale stepdaughter, just off the school bus,
Scowled, "Well, that's the last time I say my name's
Snodgrass!" Just so, may that anonymous
Mexican male who prodigally claims
My clan lines, identity and the sixteen
Digits that unlock my bank account,
Think twice. That less than proper name's been
Taken by three ex-wives, each for an amount
Past all you've squandered, each more than pleased
To change it back. That surname you affect
May have more consequence than getting teased
By dumb kids or tracked down by bank detectives.
Don't underrate its history: one of ours played
Piano on his prison's weekly broadcast;
One got rich on a scammed quiz show; one made
A bungle costing the World Series. My own past
Could subject you to guilt by association:
If you write anything more than false checks,
Abandon all hope of large press publication
Or prizes—critics shun the name like sex
Without a condom. Whoever steals my purse
Helps chain me to my writing desk again
For fun and profit. So take thanks with my curse:
May your pen name help send you to your pen.
"Who Steals My Good Name" by W.D. Snodgrass was originally published in Poetry magazine, April 2003, and collected in Not For Specialists (2006). He gained early fame with his first book of poems Heart's Needle in 1959, which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1960. He taught at Syracuse University for many years and died at his home in upstate New York in 2009.