The Milton Inn has this blue room
draped heavy in the past –
silver forks and knives
and glassware I used to polish
in early mornings when I learned
to drink my coffee black.
My great aunt Alice and I
used to take our lunches there
sipping diet coke and lemon our
three course meal a time
to talk of lives alike. Her handwriting in
pencil saying, “lovely, lovely.”
[author’s note: my great aunt Alice was an incredible woman and I really miss our lunches. They were a time to talk about writing and grammar and all the things we were geeky for. I still have her edits on my college work. I still can hear her telling me to go west on a trip that she could never take.]
the first time i slept with him,
that sleep unafraid, mouth open,
not worried about drool or how my
cheeks fold and stack unattractive, i
felt like i had stepped out of
my skin, unzipped, truly naked
for the first time, thinking you’ve
never seen me before until now, you’ve
never realized how i would
lie awake waiting until your breath
cascaded slower, until your own
mouth fell aside, your soft snore my
signal: all clear to close your eyes.
America’s greatest living poet dines
on over-easy eggs and over-done hash browns across from a Sir
Lawrence platinum fryer in Jimmy’s, the greasy spoon of
Fells Point, that swinging port of Baltimore’s finest,
and, in conversing with a Miami homicide
detective turned Carnival cruise PI at the
linoleum counter, our poet appraises an outdated
gold watch, a gambler’s smile pressed in brown eyes,
stories of overboard spouses, matter of fact, drowning like
French toast smothered in syrup; cooks in whites and blacks
short on order, hustling. People lined up, an endless
bristling behind the counter seats; a rich tango of waitresses, plates,
hungry red mouths. Everything a sizzling sound.
More eggs stacked high in cartons. Our poet hears one man yell
“It’s Free!” to no one and all. Everything is in butter. Everything
is dazzling – ready to be snatched up and sold.
(Written in 2016 in the old Jimmy’s Diner in Fells Point, Baltimore, MD)
Enjoy Robert’s gorgeous poem of that first snow in October, the harbinger of what’s to come…. Taken from Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry.
Welcome to American Life in Poetry. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit http://www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.
American Life in Poetry: Column 498
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Here’s a lovely poem for this lovely month, by Robert Haight, who lives in Michigan.
Early October Snow
It will not stay.
But this morning we wake to pale muslin
stretched across the grass.
The pumpkins, still in the fields, are planets
shrouded by clouds.
The Weber wears a dunce cap
and sits in the corner by the garage
where asters wrap scarves
around their necks to warm their blooms.
The leaves, still soldered to their branches
by a frozen drop of dew, splash
apple and pear paint along the roadsides.
It seems we have glanced out a window
into the near future, mid-December, say,
the black and white photo of winter
carefully laid over the present autumn,
like a morning we pause at the mirror
inspecting the single strand of hair
that overnight has turned to snow.
****************************** American Life in Poetry provides newspapers and online publications with a free weekly column featuring contemporary American poems. The sole mission of this project is to promote poetry: American Life in Poetry seeks to create a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. There are no costs for reprinting the columns; we do require that you register your publication here and that the text of the column be reproduced without alteration.
a burning sky dies over me,
sighs over me, extinguishes
like a lit match
blown softly unconscious.
fingers flaming pass out
into wispy smoke, clouds that once burned
hot slowly rust,
i watch them turn pyroclastic dark,
they turn against me –
an encroaching cloak of emptiness. i watch this death
a hungry voyeur. i listen though
nothing, nothing remains
save a sliver of a moon croaking awake, and black silhouettes
of trees and city rowhome skeletons whispering,
you always leave, you always do
but the gold is worth it for one brief hour,
that one small time our eyes got big
and drank colors possible only in dreams.
in the dark spaces
i went looking for the smoke.
Thought i glimpsed it
around the dust gathering on the third stair,
followed it past open windows,
chased it through the kitchen, a hallway
filled with secret light,
i went searching high,
low, i found nothing.
Felt my way in the early dark to the deck to see a
skyline city far away, no avail. Went looking to the east
and there! I saw a ghost of myself
jumping free into dense air,
she seemed convinced of one thing.
I buried my brother. And now,
the color of the sky has faded and with it
Time has donned a mystical velvet robe. He
wings me about the room like a mad scientist
whose hands are tied with potions and promises;
we were supposed to be
in a future I created full of greenery
and gold light. We were to be tomorrows and
tomorrows long from now.
His wand swirls round, stirring stars to wake. Another
day is over, and so ends this illusion.
I bury my head in my hands
and cry into soft fabric folds of his gentle gown.