Alice O. Howell   

Niobe :The Snob


                                                                Niobe was a snob.

                The ornaments on her Hepplewhite sideboard

                                                outvalued those on the altar

                of her church -- hers, mark you


                Her husband, about whom more later,

                                                                had provided her with a suitable hive

                                a small swarm of sons and daughters

                                                with uniformed drones to care for them.


                                                                The seams in Niobe's stockings

                                were always straight; the heels of her shoes

                                                bore her proudly down the street.

                Her glance was serene, confident

                                in all the wealth of her stature,

                                                                her impeccable blessings, her splendid household,

                                                and her progeny.

                Her charities were discreet,

                                her glance direct, benign, and overpowering,

                                                                but Niobe was a snob


                                                Some say her splendid character

                                was the invitation to disaster -

                                                her perfections tempted fate.


                                                One wrathful night in a massive storm

                                five of her six children were killed

                                                on the way to the movies.

                only the driver, a Miss Artemis, escaped.


                The stunning blow made the national news.


                                Niobe walked past five small white coffins

                                                                                on her husband's shaking arm,

                her very soul streaming inwardly with tears.

                                                The caption under the AP photograph

                                said she bore up heroically, giving strength

                                                                and inspiration to all.


                                                                                Within three months

                                                her youngest died

                                with his mother beside the hospital crib.


                                                The drones departed,

                                 the grief-stricken father,

                                                                never again to be consoled,

                turned to drink, lost his job,

                                                 ended up in a sanitorium

                at two hundred dollars a day

                                until he died.


                                                                Niobe got the message.

                                She dismissed the servants,

                                                sold the house,

                settled in a small but chic apartment,

                                retaining only the Hepplewhite sideboard

                                                                which had belonged to her great-grandfather.

                She began wearing low heels and mute tweeds.

                                                She took a job in a real estate office

                                and could be seen sitting up straight at her desk

                                                                 pencil tapping her lips

                staring out the window, impassive.


                                                                She had no close friends,

                                Her tragedy set her apart as surely as a leper.

                                                The only thing that betrayed her

                in her new role of humility

                                was the awesome burden of grief

                                                                                which so surpassed

                                                that of others.

                She still walked with certainty

                                                                 looked you straight in the eye

                                ennobled further by her soul-tearing loss.

                She smiled rarely

                                accepted a cigarette when one was offered


                                                                but never laughed.


                And those who did not know

                                                would still give her a fleeting glance

                                and say of her:

                                                                Niobe is a snob.