American Life in Poetry: Column 152

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

A child with a sense of the dramatic, well, many of us have been that child. Here’s Carrie Shipers of Missouri reminiscing about how she once wished for a dramatic rescue by screaming ambulance, only to find she was really longing for the comfort of her mother’s hands.

Medical History

I wanted it: arc of red and blue
strobing my skin, sirens singing
my praises, the cinching embrace
of the cot as the ambulance
slammed shut and steered away.
More than needle-pierce
or dragging blade, I wanted the swab
of alcohol and cotton, the promise
of gauze-covered cure.
My mother saved anyone   
who asked, but never me,
never the way I wanted:
her palms skimming my limbs
for injury, her fingers finding
what hurt, her lips whispering,
I got here just in time.


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. Poem copyright © 2007 by Carrie Shipers. Reprinted from “Mid-American Review,” Vol. 27, no. 2, 2007, by permission of the author. 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.