American Life in Poetry: Column 120

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

The loss of youth and innocence is one of the great themes of literature. Here the California poet Kim Noriega looks deeply into a photograph from forty years ago.

Heaven, 1963

It’s my favorite photo—
captioned, “Daddy and His Sweetheart.”
It’s in black and white,
it’s before Pabst Blue Ribbon,
before his tongue became a knife
that made my mother bleed,
and before he blackened my eye
the time he thought I meant to end my life.

He’s standing in our yard on Porter Road
beneath the old chestnut tree.
He’s wearing sunglasses,
a light cotton shirt,
and a dreamy expression.

He’s twenty-seven.
I’m two.
My hair, still baby curls,
is being tossed by a gentle breeze.
I’m fast asleep in his arms.


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. From Blue Arc West: An Anthology of California Poets (Huntington Beach, CA, Tebot Bach, 2006), 117. Copyright © 2006 by Kim Noriega . Reprinted with permission of the author and Tebot Bach. 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.