American Life in Poetry: Column 257

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Often when I dig some change out of my jeans pocket to pay somebody for something, the pennies and nickels are accompanied by a big gob of blue lint. So it’s no wonder that I was taken with this poem by a Massachusetts poet, Gary Metras, who isn’t embarrassed.

 

Lint

It doesn’t bother me to have
lint in the bottoms of pant pockets;
it gives the hands something to do,
especially since I no longer hold
shovel, hod, or hammer
in the daylight hours of labor
and haven’t, in fact, done so
in twenty-five years. A long time
to be picking lint from pockets.
Perhaps even long enough to have
gathered sacks full of lint
that could have been put
to good use, maybe spun into yarn
to knit a sweater for my wife’s
Christmas present, or strong thread
whirled and woven into a tweedy jacket.
Imagine entering my classroom
in a jacket made from lint.
Who would believe it?
Yet there are stranger things—
the son of a bricklayer with hands
so smooth they’re only fit
for picking lint.

 

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2008 by Gary Metras, whose most recent book of poems is Greatest Hits 1980-2006, Pudding House, 2007. Poem reprinted from Poetry East, Nos. 62 & 63, Fall 2008, by permission of Gary Metras and the publisher.
Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.