American Life in Poetry: Column 197

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

I suspect that one thing some people have against reading poems is that they are so often so serious, so devoid of joy, as if we poets spend all our time brooding about mutability and death and never having any fun. Here Cornelius Eady, who lives and teaches in Indiana, offers us a poem of pure pleasure.

A Small Moment

I walk into the bakery next door   
To my apartment. They are about   
To pull some sort of toast with cheese   
From the oven.   When I ask:   
What’s that smell? I am being   
A poet, I am asking   

What everyone else in the shop   
Wanted to ask, but somehow couldn’t;   
I am speaking on behalf of two other   
Customers who wanted to buy the   
Name of it.   I ask the woman   
Behind the counter for a percentage   
Of her sale. Am I flirting?   
Am I happy because the days   
Are longer?   Here’s what   

She does: She takes her time   
Choosing the slices.   “I am picking   
Out the good ones,” she tells me.   It’s   
April 14th. Spring, with five to ten   
Degrees to go.   Some days, I feel my duty;   
Some days, I love my work.


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 Cornelius Eady, from Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems (Putnam, 2008). Reprinted by permission of Cornelius Eady. 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.