American Life in Poetry: Column 284

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

I’d guess there are lots of people, like me, who sometimes visit places which in memory are hallowed but which, through time, have been changed irreparably. It is a painful experience but it underlines life. Here Carl Little, who lives in Maine, returns to a place like that.

The Clearing

The sunbox lies in pieces,
its strips of aluminum foil
flaking away to the wind,
tanning platform broken up
for kindling. Planted grass
sprouts where the path once
sharply turned to the left
circumventing underbrush,
there the man (a boy then)
stumbled on beauty’s wrath:
pale sisters yelling him off,
scrambling for clothes to cover.

All has been cleared, thick
cat briar raked into piles
and set ablaze, invincible
ailanthus stacked for dump.
All’s clear and calm save
his childhood rushing head-
long through tearing thickets,
and the sisters, barely glimpsed
against reflective flashing,
laughing after him, then
lying back to catch
all the sullen autumn sun they can.


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 ©2006 by Carl Little and reprinted from Ocean Drinker: New and Selected Poems, Deerbrook Editions, 2006, by permission of Carl Little and the publisher. 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.