03/23/2009 - 1:06pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006
To have a helpful companion as you travel through life is a marvelous gift. This poem by Gerald Fleming, a long-time teacher in the San Francisco public schools, celebrates just such a relationship.

Long Marriage

You're worried, so you wake her
& you talk into the dark:
Do you think I have cancer, you
say, or Were there worms
in that meat
, or Do you think
our son is OK
, and it's
wonderful, really—almost

03/10/2009 - 9:14am

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

People singing, not professionally but just singing for joy, it's a wonderful celebration of life. In this poem by Sebastian Matthews of North Carolina, a father and son happen upon a handful of men singing in a cafe, and are swept up into their pleasure and community.

Barbershop Quartet,
East Village Grille

03/09/2009 - 8:52am

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

Ah, yes, the mid-life crisis. And there's a lot of mid-life in which it can happen. Jerry Lee Lewis sang of it so well in "He's thirty-nine and holding, holding everything he can." And here's a fine poem by Matthew Vetter, portraying just such a man.

Wild Flowers

At fifty-six, having left my mother,
my father buys a motorcycle.
I imagine him because
it is the son's sorrowful assignment
to imagine his father: there,

03/10/2009 - 9:03am

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

Memories have a way of attaching themselves to objects, to details, to physical tasks, and here, George Bilgere, an Ohio poet, happens upon mixed feelings about his mother while slicing a head of cabbage.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

02/17/2009 - 2:12pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

To read in the news that a platoon of soldiers has been killed is a terrible thing, but to learn the name of just one of them makes the news even more vivid and sad. To hold the name of someone or something on our lips is a powerful thing. It is the badge of individuality and separateness. Charles Harper Webb, a California poet, takes advantage of the power of naming in this poem about the steady extinction of animal species.

The Animals are Leaving

One by one, like guests at a late party

02/17/2009 - 12:59pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

David Wagoner, who lives in Washington state, is one of our country's most distinguished poets and the author of many wonderful books. He is also one of our best at writing about nature, from which we learn so much. Here is a recent poem by Wagoner that speaks to perseverance.

The Cherry Tree

Out of the nursery and into the garden
where it rooted and survived its first hard winter,
then a few years of freedom while it blossomed,
put out its first tentative branches, withstood

02/17/2009 - 12:58pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

Don Welch lives in Nebraska and is one of those many talented American poets who have never received as much attention as they deserve. His poems are distinguished by the meticulous care he puts into writing them, and by their deep intelligence. Here is Welch's picture of a 14-year-old, captured at that awkward and painfully vulnerable step on the way to adulthood.

At 14

To be shy,
to lower your eyes
after making a greeting.

to know
wherever you go

02/17/2009 - 12:58pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

Here's a fine poem by Chris Forhan of Indiana, about surviving the loss of a parent, and which celebrates the lives that survive it, that go on. I especially like the parachute floating up and away, just as the lost father has gone up and away.

What My Father Left Behind

Jam jar of cigarette ends and ashes on his workbench,
hammer he nailed our address to a stump with,
balsa wood steamship, half-finished--

02/17/2009 - 12:57pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

I'd guess that most of us carry in our memories landscapes that, far behind us, hold significant meanings for us. For me, it's a Mississippi River scenic overlook south of Guttenberg, Iowa. And for you? Here's just such a memoryscape, in this brief poem by New Yorker Anne Pierson Wiese.

Inscrutable Twist

The twist of the stream was inscrutable.
It was a seemingly run-of-the-mill
stream that flowed for several miles by the side
of Route 302 in northern Vermont—

02/17/2009 - 12:56pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

This column has had the privilege of publishing a number of poems by young people, but this is the first we've published by a young person who is also a political refugee. The poet, Zozan Hawez, is from Iraq, and goes to Foster High School in Tukwila, Washington. Seattle Arts & Lectures sponsors a Writers in the Schools program, and Zozan's poem was encouraged by that initiative.


Born in a safe family
But a dangerous area, Iraq,
I heard guns at a young age, so young


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