American Life in Poetry: Column 043

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Lola Haskins, who lives in Florida, has written a number of poems about musical terms, entitled "Adagio," "Allegrissimo," "Staccato," and so on. Here is just one of those, presenting the gentleness of pianissimo playing through a series of comparisons

To Play Pianissimo

Does not mean silence.
The absence of moon in the day sky
for example.

Does not mean barely to speak,
the way a child's whisper
makes only warm air
on his mother's right ear.

To play pianissimo
is to carry sweet words
to the old woman in the last dark row
who cannot hear anything else,
and to lay them across her lap like a shawl.


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. From Desire Lines: New and Selected Poems, BOA Editions, Rochester, NY. Copyright © 2004 by Lola Haskins and reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. 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.