Here we have another one of the rare poems of Arnold Schnabel not to have been first published in his local weekly neighborhood newspaper, The Olney Times. This poem -- unusual also in that Schnabel here departs from his standard sonnet form -- has previousy only appeared in Chapter 211 of his epic memoir Railroad Train to Heaven, apparently composed on the spot -- to a jazz-band accompaniment -- at the Kettle of Fish tavern on MacDougal Street, on a hot and rainy night in August of 1957.
-- Dan Leo, Associate Professor of Classics, Assistant Home-Room Coördinator, Olney Community College; Editor of An Arnold Schnabel Almanac: 365 Selected Poems (Olney Community College Press).
I am not the man you think I am, I’m not the man who stands before you; I am not of your world or of your kind, But I’ll do my best not to bore you. I come from a very faraway land, In fact it’s several galaxies away;
It’s a little world that I call my mind, And I’d really like to go back there some day. You see I had a slight run-in or two With a man some call Lucifer, others Azazel, Some Beelzebub, some Leviathan; It doesn’t matter, he came from Hell;
And twice he did his best to drag me to That fiery place, don’t even ask me why, But fortunately I was smarter than He, and both times I out-tricked the wise guy...
To cut a long story mercifully Short, this chap I knew as Mr. Lucky Took his revenge on me in my slumber And I awakened one rainy morning
Transformed into a foolish character In a novel I didn’t even like But which I had been painfully reading In an absurd attempt to be polite; So, yes, I admit, I’m an impostor; But now, standing here, I have to wonder:
Are you, my audience, mere creations Of overheated imagination, Or have you all been exiled here as well? Is this life, or an anteroom of Hell?