American Life in Poetry: Column 045

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Poets are experts at holding mirrors to the world. Here Anne Caston, from Alaska, shows us a commonplace scene. HavenÕt we all been in this restaurant for the Sunday buffet? Caston overlays the picture with language that, too, is ordinary, even sloganistic, and overworn. But by zooming in on the joint of meat and the belly-up fishes floating in
butter, she compels us to look more deeply into what is before us, and a room that at first seemed humdrum becomes rich with inference.

Sunday Brunch at the Old Country Buffet

Here is a genial congregation,
well fed and rosy with health and appetite,
robust children in tow. They have come
and all the generations of them, to be fed,
their old ones too who are eligible now
for a small discount, having lived to a ripe age.
Over the heaped and steaming plates, one by one,
heads bow, eyes close; the blessings are said.

Here there is good will; here peace
on earth, among the leafy greens, among the fruits
of the gardens of America's heartland. Here is abundance,
here is the promised
land of milk and honey, out of which
a flank of the fatted calf, thick still
on its socket and bone, rises like a benediction
over the loaves of bread and the little fishes, belly-up in butter.


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 Flying Out with the Wounded, New York University Press, 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Anne Caston. 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.