American Life in Poetry: Column 101

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Those big cherry flavored wax lips that my friends and I used to buy when I was a boy, well, how could I resist this poem by Cynthia Rylant of Oregon?

Wax Lips

Todd’s Hardware was dust and a monkey—
a real one, on the second floor—
and Mrs. Todd there behind the glass cases.
We stepped over buckets of nails and lawnmowers
to get to the candy counter in the back,
and pointed at the red wax lips,
and Mary Janes,
and straws full of purple sugar.
Said goodbye to Mrs. Todd, she white-faced and silent,
and walked the streets of Beaver,
our teeth sunk hard in the wax,
and big red lips worth kissing.


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. "Wax Lips" by Cynthia Rylant from Waiting to Waltz. Copyright © 2001 by Cynthia Rylant. Reprinted with permission of the author, whose most recent book of poetry is Ludie’s Life, Harcourt, 2006. Introduction copyright © 2017 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.