American Life in Poetry: Column 158


Putting bed pillows onto the grass to freshen, it’s a pretty humble subject for a poem, but look how Kentucky poet, Frank Steele, deftly uses a sun-warmed pillow to bring back the comfort and security of childhood.

Part of a Legacy

I take pillows outdoors to sun them
as my mother did.  “Keeps bedding fresh,”
she said.  It was April then, too—
buttercups fluffing their frail sails,
one striped bee humming grudges, a crinkle
of jonquils.  Weeds reclaimed bare ground.
All of these leaked somehow
into the pillows, looking odd where they   
simmered all day, the size of hams, out of place
on grass.  And at night I could feel
some part of my mother still with me
in the warmth of my face as I dreamed
baseball and honeysuckle, sleeping
on sunlight.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2000 by Frank Steele, whose most recent book of poetry is Singing into That Fresh Light, co-authored with Peggy Steele, ed. Robert Bly, Blue Sofa Press, 2001. Reprinted from Blue Sofa Review, Vol. II, no. 1, Spring 2000, by permission of Frank Steele. 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.