American Life in Poetry: Column 007


Leonard Nathan is a master of short poems in which two or three figures are placed on what can be seen to be a stage, as in a drama. Here, as in other poems like it, the speaker's sentences are rich with implications. This is the title work from Nathan's book from Orchises Press (1999):

The Potato Eaters

Sometimes, the naked taste of potato
reminds me of being poor.

The first bites are gratitude,
the rest, contented boredom.

The little kitchen still flickers
like a candle-lit room in a folktale.

Never again was my father so angry,
my mother so still as she set the table,

or I so much at home.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Reprinted by permission of the author, whose most recent book is Tears of the Old Magician, Orchises Press, 2003. Introduction copyright © 2016 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.