'The broken pieces, made whole again, merged into two reconstructed hearts'

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There are those like me who can't even tell when an avocado is ripe, and those who know exactly how to perfectly prepare a ripe one. Here's a poem of avocado expertise by Diane Lockward from The Uneaten Carrots of Atonement, published by Wind Publications. The poet lives in New Jersey. 




FOR THE LOVE OF AVOCADOS

by Diana Lockward 
 

I sent him from home hardly more than a child.
Years later,...

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American Life in Poetry

'How to be private and patient, how to be unbuttoned'

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The next time you open your closet, this poem will give you reason to pay a little more attention to what's hanging inside. Gary Whited is from Massachusetts and his most recent book is Having Listened, (Homebound Publications, 2013). 




MY BLUE SHIRT 

 

hangs in the closet
of this small room, c...

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American Life in Poetry

'With only a smear of water to keep them singing'

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All too often poets shun simple, direct, and earthy words like "tea" in favor of others that sound more sophisticated, like Earl Grey or Lapsang Souchong. But fancy words put experience at a greater d...

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American Life in Poetry

'Only she can see where she goes and track where she's been'

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Fog carries mystery within it, and here's a fine poem about a day in which a memory approaches through fog and makes itself real. Michael Lauchlan lives in Michigan and his most recent book is Trumbul...

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American Life in Poetry

'You are now only a person I may hope to meet momentarily'

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Seeing a stranger who reminds you of someone else, well, it happens to all of us. After my father died I saw dozens of little old men in hats like he wore, on their way here and there, not quite my da...

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American Life in Poetry

'One by one all the questions you ever had become clear'

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Those of you who've returned home to visit parents may recognise the way the familiar and the strange wash together in this wise and peaceful poem by Robert Tremmel. The poet is from Iowa and his most...

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American Life in Poetry

'Some trace that stays while the great body remains below out of sight'

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Marge Saiser is a Nebraska poet about whose work I have said that no contemporary poet is better at writing about love. Here's a love poem from her new book, I Have Nothing to Say about Fire, from Bac...

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American Life in Poetry

'We pull an arm's length of the sail down over itself, then do this again'

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I'm fond of poems in which we see people working together, helping one another. I've never folded a sail, nor seen anybody fold one, but here I get to watch it happen, and feel it happen, too. Alan Fe...

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American Life in Poetry

'What I want tonight is lipstick. As pure a red as I can find'

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There are times when a single word in a poem is so perfect a choice that it pops like a firecracker, and I'll let you guess which word did that for me. A hint: it's a modifier. The poem is by Anya Kru...

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American Life in Poetry

'That apple bride was sweet, and I want to bring it back to him'

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A while back we published a column in which I talked about my delight in the many names of kinds of apples, and mentioned Louise Bogan's marvellous mid-century poem 'The Crossed Apple'. Here's yet ano...

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American Life in Poetry

'She knows she is not looking at the sky. But she calls out, still'

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What would our lives be like if we didn't have imagination? Here's a poem by Rachel Richardson, who lives in California, from her book, Hundred-Year Wave, from Carnegie Mellon University Press. 



ASTRON...

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American Life in Poetry

'I want to be at both houses'

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Here's a short but loaded poem by a six-year-old from South Carolina, Jo'lene Dailey, from RYPA, the Rattle Young Poets Anthology. Rattle is a prominent literary journal. How many children have felt t...

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American Life in Poetry

'Gazing into the world: at our walls, my red cup, my sleepless hair'

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I suppose there have been other poems about a baby's first look at and into the world, but they couldn't be more touching than this, by Faith Shearin, who lives in West Virginia, and whose most recent...

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American Life in Poetry

'Every night I tell her about the fish who died for her'

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We've been selecting poems for this column for more than ten years and I can't remember ever publishing a poem about a cat. But here at last is a cat, a lovely old cat. Ron Koertge lives in California...

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American Life in Poetry

'The windshield the anvil, the trike the hammer, the marriage the forge'

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Garrison Keillor has used a number of George Bilgere's poems on The Writer's Almanac, and I've used several in this column, and it seems neither of us can get quite enough of this writer's clear, hone...

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American Life in Poetry

'The witnesses are not to be found, the steps lead nowhere'

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The workings of memory are something that every writer thinks a lot about, and in this poem Peter Everwine, a California poet we've featured before, looks very closely into those workings. His most re...

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American Life in Poetry

'I sit in the dirt and put my hands in your tracks'

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Travel can sharpen our awareness, can keep us on the alert, and here's a poem by Patricia Traxler from her new book Naming the Fires, from Hanging Loose Press. Traxler lives in Salina, Kansas. 




LAST HI...

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American Life in Poetry

'I can't cross over. Then you really will be gone'

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Barbara Crooker, who lives in Pennsylvania, has become one of this column's favorite poets. We try to publish work that a broad audience of readers can understand and, we hope, may be moved by, and th...

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American Life in Poetry

'She dances through this two-year window'

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Nick Norwood's most recent book is Gravel and Hawk, published by Ohio University Press. This poem has sorrow at the top and happiness at the bottom, which means there's a lot of living in between. It'...

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American Life in Poetry

'The long, low waves of plains that dissolved time'

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Here's a poem by Debra Nystrom about what it feels like to be a schoolgirl in rural America. No loud laughter echoing in the shopping mall for these young women. The poet lives in Virginia and this is...

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American Life in Poetry

'He still waves the flopping spring of his crop, still stares through dimming goggles'

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I'd guess that many of us like old toys. As a boy I had a wind-up tin submarine that dove and surfaced, and a few years ago I saw one just like it in the window of an antique store, making me, of cour...

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American Life in Poetry

'Come winter they have a way of disappearing, disguised as dirty light'

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Stuart Dybek was born in Chicago, where there are at least a couple of hundred hotels a poet might stroll past, looking up at the windows. Here's a poem from his book, Streets in Their Own Ink, from F...

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American Life in Poetry

'Weather had toughened the soft leather, and one lace had broken short'

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Sylvia Ross is from California's Chukchansi people, and this poem, from the anthology Red Indian Road West (Scarlet Tanager Books), is as moving a description about the lasting warmth of hand-me-downs...

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American Life in Poetry

'I drinking deep of everything I saw, now mine to keep'

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Roy Scheele, one of Nebraska's finest poets, has a new chapbook called The Sledders: Thirty Sonnets, from Three Sheets Press. One of any writer's most valuable tools is memory, and this poem shows it ...

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American Life in Poetry

'A hissing fury at the bottom of the garbage can, a vampire bathed in light'

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Readers of this column have probably noticed how much I love poems that give us new ways of looking at things, and in this example Faith Shearin does just that. I especially like "four-legged relative...

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American Life in Poetry

'The girl draws a webbed foot from her pocket and places it in his hand'

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Here's a fine, deftly made poem by Meg Kearney, of New Hampshire, in which the details deliver the emotions, which are never overtly named other than by the title. It's my favorite kind of poem, and i...

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American Life in Poetry

'I could smell your breath, your musty fur'

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As children, just about everyone has experienced the very real fear of an imaginary monster. But what if our mothers could have spoken to our childhood fears? Carrie Shipers of Wisconsin, the author o...

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American Life in Poetry

'Imagine being so light as to float above water in love'

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We hope that you will visit, from time to time, our archived columns at www.americanlifeinpoetry.org, where you may find other poems by the poets we feature. Today's is the third we've published by Sh...

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American Life in Poetry

'What struck me first was their panic'

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There's an old joke about a truck with a five-ton licence and ten tons of canaries on board. The driver had to keep getting out and banging his fist on the side to keep half the canaries flying. Here ...

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American Life in Poetry

'Sinuous body we've never glimpsed, that haunts about our shrubs'

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This past autumn, pruning a big lilac bush, I found a snakeskin that some bird had woven into its nest. Here's a poem about another find, from Stephen Behrendt, who lives and teaches in Nebraska. His ...

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American Life in Poetry

'She tells him she's leaving him and he bakes a pie'

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Faced by a loss, and perhaps by a loss of words, many of us find something to do with our hands. Here's a poem about just that by Arden Levine, published in 2015 in an issue of Agni magazine. Ms Levin...

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American Life in Poetry

'They show up when I think of them, as if they always are waiting for me to remember'

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At some moment every day I call up a memory of one or another of my family members who have passed on, so I was especially taken with this poem by Tim Nolan, who lives in Minnesota. His forthcoming bo...

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American Life in Poetry

'One brave screw holds the makeshift contraption together'

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Here's a touching father-son poem by Jennifer Gray, who lives in Nebraska. If you're not big enough to push a real mower, well, you make a mower of your own. 




Summer Mowing 

He has transformed
his To...

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American Life in Poetry

'In the shadows where the milk-chocolate river unfolded ... we'd strip'  

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Here's a fine poem about the fleshy pleasures of adolescence by Ginger Murchison, from her book a scrap of linen, a bone from Press 53. Murchison lives in Florida. 



River 

Late afternoons, we'd tuck u...

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American Life in Poetry

'They twirl twice before the imported cheeses, fresh mozzarella in its milky liquid'

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Pat Emile is assistant editor and Jill-of-all-trades for this column. Were it not for her help I couldn't keep these weekly selections coming. Here she is in another role, as a poet, stopping in a lit...

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American Life in Poetry

'The winter flies away when the cranes cross'

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Early each spring, Nebraska hosts, along a section of the Platte river, several hundred thousand sandhill cranes. It's something I wish everyone could see. Don Welch, one of the state's finest poets, ...

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American Life in Poetry

'The way we need to learn to live with wasting'

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I can't help wishing that dogs lived as long as we do. I have buried a number of them, and it doesn't get any easier. In fact, it gets harder. Here's Mark Vinz, a Minnesota poet, from his book Permane...

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American Life in Poetry

'Mannequins weirdly sexy behind big glass windows'

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My father spent his life in the retail business, and loved almost every minute of it, so I was especially pleased to see this poem by David Huddle, from his new book, Dream Sender, from Louisiana Stat...

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American Life in Poetry

'Watching the world swim fast and shining, right before his eyes'

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Richard M Berlin is a doctor and poet, or a poet and doctor, and in this poem from his book Practice, from Brick Road Poetry Press, he honours the wisdom each of us gains through experience.

 

 

...

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American Life in Poetry

'He liked to watch the old houses stir awake'

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Susan Aizenberg lives and teaches in Omaha, and the following poem is from Quiet City, published by BkMk Press. My father, and perhaps yours, too, found a little pleasure in an early morning walk. 

...

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American Life in Poetry

'A parade down 5th Avenue, bonnets in lavender, powder blues'

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When I was a boy, because of the song, I thought there really was an Easter parade, but the Easters came and went without one. But here's a glimpse of just a little piece of a parade by Kim Dower, who...

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American Life in Poetry

'Perhaps she came down for the apples'

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Philip Terman is a Pennsylvania poet who, with his family, lives in a former one-room schoolhouse. And whenever there's a one-room schoolhouse you can count on just a little wilderness around it. This...

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American Life in Poetry

'Every spring my mother says I should buy a straw hat'

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In my limited experience, mothering and worrying go hand in hand. Here's a mother's worry poem by Richard Jarrette, from his fine book, A Hundred Million Years of Nectar Dances. He lives in California...

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American Life in Poetry

'I am Mercury, bearing news, my wings a single-speed bike'

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I suppose some of the newspapers which carry this column still employ young people to deliver the news, but carriers are now mostly adults. I had two paper routes when I was a boy and was pleased to f...

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American Life in Poetry

'Maybe it's what we don't say that saves us'

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After my mother died, her best friend told me that they were so close that they could sit together in a room for an hour and neither felt she had to say a word. Here's a fine poem by Dorianne Laux, ab...

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American Life in Poetry

'The older we get the stranger my husband becomes'

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It's said that each of us undergoes gradual change and that every seven years we are essentially a new person. Here's a poem by Freya Manfred, who lives in Stillwater, Minnesota, about the changes in ...

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American Life in Poetry

'Our small talk numbing as a dial tone, serious as prayer'

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A friend told me recently that he tries to keep in touch with people he's known even though they don't put any effort into doing that themselves. Here's William Trowbridge, who lives in Missouri, maki...

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American Life in Poetry

'To crease a sheet of paper is to change its memory'

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This column is more than 10 years old and I've finally gotten around to trying a little origami! Here's a poem about that, and about a good deal more than that, by Vanessa Stauffer, who teaches writin...

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American Life in Poetry

'Light larking between wind and current will be in this sweater'

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The only passage of scripture that I know by heart is from Ecclesiastes: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the g...

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American Life in Poetry

Deer Fording the Missouri in Early Afternoon

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I love to have people come up to me and say, "You'll never believe what I saw this morning," and then go on to tell me. It's their delight that I like so much. Here's a poem in that vein by Kevin Cole...

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