American Life in Poetry: Column 310

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

A friend saw a refrigerator magnet that read, PARENTING: THE FIRST 40 YEARS ARE THE HARDEST. And lots of parents, thinking their children have moved on, discover one day that those children are back. Here Marilyn L. Taylor, Poet Laureate of Wisconsin for 2009 and 2010, writes of that.

Home Again, Home Again

The children are back, the children are back—
They’ve come to take refuge, exhale and unpack;
The marriage has faltered, the job has gone bad,
Come open the door for them, Mother and Dad.

The city apartment is leaky and cold,
The landlord lascivious, greedy and old—
The mattress is lumpy, the oven’s encrusted,
The freezer, the fan, and the toilet have rusted.

The company caved, the boss went broke,
The job and the love affair, all up in smoke.
The anguish of loneliness comes as a shock—
O heart in the doldrums, O heart in hock.

And so they return with their piles of possessions,
Their terrified cats and their mournful expressions,
Reclaiming the bedrooms they had in their teens,
Clean towels, warm comforter, glass figurines.

Downstairs in the kitchen the father and mother
Don’t say a word, but they look at each other
As down from the hill comes Jill, comes Jack.
The children are back. The children are back.


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 ©2009 by Marilyn L. Taylor, whose most recent book of poetry is “Going Wrong,” Parallel Press, 2009. Poem reprinted from “Wisconsin Poets Laureate,” Marsh River Editions, 2009, by permission of Marilyn L. Taylor 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.