American Life in Poetry: Column 394
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
A Kansas poet, Wyatt Townley has written a number of fine poems about the swift and relentless passage of time, one of the great themes of the world’s poetry, and I especially like this one.
Finding the Scarf
The woods are the book
we read over and over as children.
Now trees lie at angles, felled
by lightning, torn by tornados,
silvered trunks turning back
to earth. Late November light
slants through the oaks
as our small parade, father, mother, child,
shushes along, the wind searching treetops
for the last leaf. Childhood lies
on the forest floor, not evergreen
but oaken, its branches latched
to a graying sky. Here is the scarf
we left years ago like a bookmark,
meaning to return the next day,
having just turned our heads
toward a noise in the bushes,
toward the dinnerbell in the distance,
toward what we knew and did not know
we knew, in the spreading twilight
that returns changed to a changed place.
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 ©2007 by Wyatt Townley from her most recent book of poems, The Afterlives of Trees, Woodley Press, 2011. Poem reprinted by permission of Wyatt Townley and the publisher.
Introduction copyright © 2014 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.