American Life in Poetry: Column 159

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Bad news all too often arrives with a ringing telephone, all too early in the morning. But sometimes it comes with less emphasis, by regular mail. Here Allan Peterson of Florida gets at the feelings of receiving bad news by letter, not by directly stating how he feels but by suddenly noticing the world that surrounds the moment when that news arrives.

The Inevitable

To have that letter arrive
was like the mist that took a meadow
and revealed hundreds
of small webs once invisible
The inevitable often
stands by plainly but unnoticed
till it hands you a letter
that says death and you notice
the weed field had been
readying its many damp handkerchiefs
all along


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 Allan Peterson, whose most recent book of poetry is "All the Lavish in Common," U. of Mass. Pr., 2005, winner of the Juniper Prize. Reprinted from “The Chattahoochee Review,” Winter 2007, V. 27, no. 2, by permission of the author. 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.