Friday, February 19, 2016

Two Poems by Ted Kooser

A Room in the Past

It’s a kitchen. Its curtains filled
with a morning light so bright
you can’t see beyond its windows
into the afternoon. A kitchen
falling through time with its things
in their places, the dishes jingling
up in the cupboard, the bucket
of drinking water rippled as if
a truck had just gone past, but that truck
was thirty years. No one’s at home
in this room. Its counter is wiped,
and the dishrag hangs from its nail,
a dry leaf. In house dresses of mist,
blue aprons of rain, my grandmother
moved through this life like a ghost,
and when she had finished her years,
she put them all back in their places
and wiped out the sink, turning her back
on the rest of us, forever.  

So This Is Nebraska

The gravel road rides with a slow gallop   
over the fields, the telephone lines   
streaming behind, its billow of dust   
full of the sparks of red wing blackbirds.

On either side, those dear old ladies,
the loosening barns, their little windows   
dulled by cataracts of hay and cobwebs   
hide broken tractors under their skirts.

So this is Nebraska. A Sunday   
afternoon, July. Driving along
with your hand out squeezing the air,   
a meadowlark waiting on every post.

Behind a shelter belt of cedars,
top-deep in hollyhocks, pollen and bees,   
a pickup kicks its fenders off
and settles back to read the clouds.

You feel like that; you feel like letting   
your tires go flat, like letting the mice   
build a nest in your muffler, like being   
no more than a truck in the weeds,

clucking with chickens or sticky with honey   
or holding a skinny old man in your lap   
while he watches the road, waiting
for someone to wave to. You feel like

waving. You feel like stopping the car
and dancing around on the road. You wave   
instead and leave your hand out gliding   
lark-like over the wheat, over the houses. 

Ted Kooser has published several books of poetry: Valentines, University of Nebraska Press, 2008; Flying at Night: Poems 1965-1985, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005; Delights and Shadows: Poems, Copper Canyon Press, 2004; Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry, Copper Canyon Press, 2003; Winter Morning Walks: 100 Postcards to Jim Harrison, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 2001; Weather Central, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994; The Blizzard Voices, Bieler, 1986; One World at a Time, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985; Cottonwood County, Windflower, 1980; Sure Signs: New and Selected Poems, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980; Old Marriage and New: Poems, Cold Mountain Press, 1978; Not Coming to Be Barked At, Pentagram Press, 1976; A Local Habitation and a Name, Solo Press, 1974; Twenty Poems, Best Cellar Press, 1973; Grass County, Windflower, 1971; Official Entry Blank, University of Nebraska Press, 1969.

His poems have appeared in such periodicals as Poetry, New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Hudson Review, Kansas Quarterly, Kenyon Review, Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, Atlantic Monthly, Shenandoah and many others. His honors and awards include two NEA fellowships in poetry, a Pushcart Prize, the Stanley Kunitz Prize from Columbia, and a Merit Award from the Nebraska Arts Council. In the fall of 2004, Kooser was appointed the Library of Congress’s thirteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. 

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