American Life in Poetry: Column 052

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

What a marvelous gift is the imagination, and each of us gets one at birth, free of charge and ready to start up, get on, and ride away. Can there be anything quite so homely and ordinary as a steam radiator? And yet, here, Connie Wanek, of Duluth, Minnesota, nudges one into play.

Radiator

Mittens are drying on the radiator,
boots nearby, one on its side.
Like some monstrous segmented insect
the radiator elongates under the window.

Or it is a beast with many shoulders
domesticated in the Ice Age.
How many years it takes
to move from room to room!

Some cage their radiators
but this is unnecessary
as they have little desire to escape.

Like turtles they are quite self-contained.
If they seem sad, it is only the same sadness
we all feel, unlovely, growing slowly cold.


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 Bonfire, New Rivers Press, 1997, by permission of the author. Copyright © 1997 by Connie Wanek. Her most recent book is Hartley Field, from Holy Cow! Press. Introduction copyright © 2016 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.