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American Life in Poetry: Column 415

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

I’ve recently published a children’s book about a man who is so fussy about his yard that he loses his home, so I was immediately taken by this fine poem by Lynne Sharon Schwartz about a similar man. We all enjoy writing that confirms what we’ve privately observed about the world. Schwartz lives in New York City.

Cement Backyard

My father had our yard cemented over.
He couldn’t tell a flower from a weed.
The neighbors let their backyards run to clover
and some grew dappled gardens from a seed,

but he preferred cement to rampant green.
Lushness reeked of anarchy’s profusion.
Better to tamp the wildness down, unseen,
than tolerate its careless brash intrusion.

The grass interred, he felt well satisfied:
his first house, and he took an owner’s pride,
surveying the uniform, cemented yard.
Just so, he labored to cement his heart.



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 ©2012 by Lynne Sharon Schwartz from her most recent book of poems, See You in the Dark, Curbstone/Northwestern University Press, 2012. Reprinted with permission from Curbstone/Northwestern University Press. 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.

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