American Life in Poetry: Column 097

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Though parents know that their children will grow up and away from them, will love and be loved by others, it’s a difficult thing to accept. Massachusetts poet Mary Jo Salter emphasizes the poignancy of the parent/child relationship in this perceptive and compelling poem.

Somebody Else’s Baby

From now on they always are, for years now
they always have been, but from now on you know
they are, they always will be,

from now on when they cry and you say
wryly to their mother, better you than me,
you’d better mean it, you’d better

hand over what you can’t have, and gracefully.


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 New Letters, vol. 72, no. 3-4, 2006, by permission of the poet. Copyright © 2006 by Mary Jo Salter, whose most recent book of poetry is Open Shutters, Knopf, 2003. 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.