American Life in Poetry: Column 176

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Hearts and flowers, that’s how some people dismiss poetry, suggesting that’s all there is to it, just a bunch of sappy poets weeping over love and beauty. Well, poetry is lots more than that. At times it’s a means of honoring the simple things about us. To illustrate the care with which one poet observes a flower, here’s Frank Steele, of Kentucky, paying such close attention to a sunflower that he almost gets inside it.

Sunflower

You’re expected to see
only the top, where sky
scrambles bloom, and not
the spindly leg, hairy, fending off
tall, green darkness beneath.
Like every flower, she has a little
theory, and what she thinks
is up.   I imagine the long
climb out of the dark
beyond morning glories, day lilies, four o’clocks
up there to the dream she keeps
lifting, where it’s noon all day.


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 © 2001 by Frank Steele. Reprinted from “Singing into That Fresh Light,” co-authored with Peggy Steele, ed., Robert Bly, Blue Sofa Press, 2001, by permission of Frank Steele. 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.