American Life in Poetry: Column 014

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Often everyday experiences provide poets with inspiration. Here Georgiana Cohen observes a woman looking out her window and compares the woman to the sunset. The woman's "slumped" chin, the fence that separates them, and the "beached" cars set the poem's tone; this is clearly not a celebration of the neighborhood. Yet by turning to clouds, sky, and breath, Cohen underscores the scene's fragile grace.

Old Woman in a Housecoat

An old woman in
a floor-length housecoat
had become sunset
to me, west-facing.
Turquoise, sage, or rose,
she leans out of her
second floor window,
chin slumped in her palm,
and gazes at the
fenced property line
between us, the cars
beached in the driveway,
the creeping slide of
light across shingles.
When the window shuts,
dusk becomes blush and
bruises, projected
on vinyl siding.
Housecoats breathe across
the sky like frail clouds.


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 Cream City Review, 2004, by permission of the author, a writer and journalist living in Boston. Poem copyright © 2004 by Georgiana Cohen. 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.