American Life in Poetry: Column 091

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

How many of us, when passing through some small town, have felt that it seemed familiar though we’ve never been there before. And of course it seems familiar because much of the course of life is pretty much the same wherever we go, right down to the up-and-down fortunes of the football team and the unanswered love letters. Here’s a poem by Mark Vinz.

Driving Through

This could be the town you’re from,
marked only by what it’s near.
The gas station man speaks of weather
and the high school football team
just as you knew he would—
kind to strangers, happy to live here.

Tell yourself it doesn’t matter now,
you’re only driving through.
Past the sagging, empty porches
locked up tight to travelers’ stares,
toward the great dark of the fields,
your headlights startle a flock of
old love letters—still undelivered,
enroute for years.


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 “Red River Blues,” published by College of the Mainland, Texas City, TX, 1977, by permission of the author. Copyright © 1977 by Mark Vinz, whose most recent book is “Long Distance,” Midwestern Writers Publishing House, 2005. 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.