American Life in Poetry: Column 165

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

In “The Moose,” a poem much too long to print here, the late Elizabeth Bishop was able to show a community being created from a group of strangers on a bus who come in contact with a moose on the highway. They watch it together and become one. Here Robert Bly of Minnesota assembles a similar community, around an eclipse. Notice how the experience happens to “we,” the group, not just to “me,” the poet.

Seeing the Eclipse in Maine

It started about noon.  On top of Mount Batte,   
We were all exclaiming.  Someone had a cardboard   
And a pin, and we all cried out when the sun   
Appeared in tiny form on the notebook cover.   

It was hard to believe.  The high school teacher   
We’d met called it a pinhole camera,   
People in the Renaissance loved to do that.   
And when the moon had passed partly through   

We saw on a rock underneath a fir tree,   
Dozens of crescents—made the same way—   
Thousands!  Even our straw hats produced   
A few as we moved them over the bare granite.   

We shared chocolate, and one man from Maine   
Told a joke.  Suns were everywhere—at our feet.


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 © 1997 by Robert Bly, whose most recent book of poetry is My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy, Harper Perennial, 2006. Poem reprinted from Music, Pictures, and Stories, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 2002, by permission of the writer. 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.