American Life in Poetry: Column 317

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Our wars come home, sooner or later. Judith Harris lives in Washington, DC, and in this poem gives us a veteran of Iraq back among the ordinary activities of American life.

End of Market Day

At five, the market is closing.
Burdock roots, parsley, and rutabagas
are poured back into the trucks.
The antique dealer breaks down his tables.

Light dappled, in winter parkas
shoppers hunt for bargains:
a teapot, or costume jewelry,
a grab bag of rubbishy vegetables for stew.

Now twilight, the farmer’s wife
bundled in her tweed coat and pocket apron
counts out her cash from a metal box,
and nods to her grown-up son

back from a tour in Iraq,
as he waits in the station wagon
with the country music turned way up,
his prosthetic leg gunning the engine.


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 Judith Harris, whose most recent book of poetry is The Bad Secret, Louisiana State University Press, 2006. Poem reprinted from The Southern Review, Vol. 46, no. 1, 2009, by permission of Judith Harris 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.