American Life in Poetry: Column 297

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

To be stumped by the very last crossword puzzle you ever will work on, well, that’s defeat, but a small and amusing defeat. Here George Bilgere, a poet from Ohio, gives us a picture of his mother’s last day on earth.

Blank

When I came to my mother’s house
the day after she had died
it was already a museum of her
unfinished gestures. The mysteries
from the public library, due
in two weeks. The half-eaten square
of lasagna in the fridge.

The half-burned wreckage
of her last cigarette,
and one red swallow
of wine in a lipsticked
glass beside her chair.

Finally, a blue Bic
on a couple of downs
and acrosses left blank
in the Sunday crossword,
which actually had the audacity
to look a little smug
at having, for once, won.


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 ©2010 by George Bilgere from his most recent book of poems, The White Museum, Autumn House Press, 2010. Reprinted by permission of George Bilgere and the publisher. 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.