American Life in Poetry: Column 013

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Birthdays, especially those which mark the passage of a decade, are occasions not only for celebration, but for reflection. In "Turning Forty," Ohio poet Kevin Griffith conveys a confusion of sentiments. The speaker feels a sense of peace at forty, but recalls a more powerful, more confident time in his life.

Turning Forty

At times it's like there is a small planet
inside me. And on this planet,
there are many small wars, yet none
big enough to make a real difference.
The major countries—mind and heart—have
called a truce for now. If this planet had a ruler,
no one remembers him well. All
decisions are made by committee.
Yet there are a few pictures of the old dictator—
how youthful he looked on his big horse,
how bright his eyes.
He was ready to conquer the world.


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 Cooweescoowee by permission of the author, whose most recent book is Paradise Refunded (Backwaters Press, 1998). Poem copyright © 2004 by Kevin Griffith. Introduction copyright © 2017 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.