American Life in Poetry: Column 095

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Literature, and in this instance, poetry, holds a mirror to life; thus the great themes of life become the great themes of poems. Here the distinguished American poet, John Haines, addresses—and celebrates through the affirmation of poetry—our preoccupation with aging and mortality.

Young Man

I seemed always standing
before a door
to which I had no key,
although I knew it hid behind it
a gift for me.

Until one day I closed
my eyes a moment, stretched
then looked once more.
And not surprised, I did not mind it
when the hinges creaked
and, smiling, Death
held out his hands to me.


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 ABZ: A Poetry Magazine, No. 1, 2006, by permission of the author. Copyright © 2006, by John Haines, whose most recent book of poetry is Of Your Passage, O Summer, Limberlost Press, 2004. 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.