American Life in Poetry: Column 035

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Massachusetts poet J. Lorraine Brown has used an unusual image in “Tintype on the Pond, 1925.” This poem, like many others, offers us a unique experience, presented as a gift, for us to respond to as we will. We need not ferret out a hidden message. How many of us will recall this little scene the next time we see ice skates or a Sunday-dinner roast?

Tintype on the Pond, 1925

Believe it or not,
the old woman said,
and I tried to picture it:
a girl,
the polished white ribs of a roast
tied to her boots with twine,
the twine coated with candle wax
so she could glide
uninterrupted
across the ice—
my mother,
skating on bones.


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 Eclipse by permission of the author. Poem copyright © 2004 by J. Lorraine Brown. 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.