around me in a stillness, a lonlieness
composed of slow shadows and lights
this old house takes its rest with a creak
echoing down the hall to my musty bedroom
shared by only one, the creaks reminding me
of how my knees used to climb stairs
and how these bedsprings used to jump when
he was alive and how the kids used
to clatter and creak through the kitchen
how the years turn like a watch rusting
click click creak
how memories torture me daily but at night they
meekly creak a complaint before I tie them up
and flush them with the efficiency of a proud soldier.
Hi and Happy Friday!! I wrote this essay a few years ago and, after talking with a good friend who’s father has also just retired, I thought I’d find it and post it here. Let me know what you think!
How to Start the Day: Reflections on the International Day of Older Persons
Thank you to American Life in Poetry for allowing me to republish today’s column. I just loved the quiet, poignant simplicity of this poem. Really resonated with me….
American Life in Poetry: Column 350
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006
The persons we are when we are young are probably buried somewhere within us when we’ve grown old. Denise Low, who was the Kansas poet laureate, takes a look at a younger version of herself in this telling poem.
I look through glass and see a young woman
of twenty, washing dishes, and the window
turns into a painting. She is myself thirty years ago.
She holds the same blue bowls and brass teapot
I still own. I see her outline against lamplight;
she knows only her side of the pane. The porch
where I stand is empty. Sunlight fades. I hear
water run in the sink as she lowers her head,
blind to the future. She does not imagine I exist.
I step forward for a better look and she dissolves
into lumber and paint. A gate I passed through
to the next life loses shape. Once more I stand
squared into the present, among maple trees
and scissor-tailed birds, in a garden, almost
a mother to that faint, distant woman.
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 ©2010 by Denise Low, from her most recent book of poetry, Ghost Stories of the New West, Woodley Memorial Press, 2010. Poem reprinted by permission of Denise Low and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2011 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.
American Life in Poetry ©2006 The Poetry Foundation
This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
snow like petals blown
by that one giant whoo-sh –
scattered the dandelion
when we lived in fields,
made wishes instead
of analyzing frozen precip
in harsh city streetlights.
i carefully rearrange the flowers
after cleaning the water from a milky green
to a crystal clear complexion
i pat those violet ones, yellow ones,
whisper to them –
you’re still young, strong,
you still know how to work a room,
hold out for just one more day
drink up that new water,
Rosie the bird gives
a shrill whistled dare
as I creak up the steps.
The old sit littered
in every hallway, every landing,
they sit and stare, even
my grandfather’s eyes
I’ve had enough of the bird
who calls my bluff,
his bloodshot blue eyes
try only so hard —
realize they’re tired and
admit: “I’m just
another body in the hall.”
it is time
to put away
make him dinner
and care about things
we women must —
it is time to
smile from somewhere
to carry the child
and leave not a hair
settled out of place.