American Life in Poetry: Column 011

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Here David Wagoner, a distinguished poet living in Washington state, vividly describes a peacock courtship, and though it's a poem about birds, haven't you seen the males of other species, including ours, look every bit as puffed up, and observed the females' hilarious indifference?

Peacock Display

He approaches her, trailing his whole fortune,
Perfectly cocksure, and suddenly spreads
The huge fan of his tail for her amazement.

Each turquoise and purple, black-horned, walleyed quill
Comes quivering forward, an amphitheatric shell
For his most fortunate audience: her alone.

He plumes himself. He shakes his brassily gold
Wings and rump in a dance, lifting his claws
Stiff-legged under the great bulge of his breast.

And she strolls calmly away, pecking and pausing,
Not watching him, astonished to discover
All these seeds spread just for her in the dirt.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. 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. Reprinted from Best of Prairie Schooner: Fiction and Poetry, University of Nebraska Press, 2001, by permission of the author, whose most recent book is Good Morning and Good Night, University of Illinois Press, 2005. Introduction copyright © 2018 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.