American Life in Poetry: Column 322

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Cathy Smith Bowers was recently appointed poet laureate of North Carolina, and I want to celebrate her appointment by showing you one of her lovely poems, a peaceful poem about a peaceful thing.

Peace Lilies

I collect them now, it seems. Like
sea-shells or old
thimbles. One for
Father. One for

Mother. Two for my sweet brothers.
Odd how little
they require of
me. Unlike the

ones they were sent in memory
of. No sudden
shrilling of the
phone. No harried

midnight flights. Only a little
water now and
then. Scant food and
light. See how I’ve

brought them all together here in
this shaded space
beyond the stairs.
Even when they

thirst, they summon me with nothing
more than a soft,
indifferent furl-
ing of their leaves.


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 ©2004 by Cathy Smith Bowers, whose most recent book of poetry is The Candle I Hold Up to See You, Iris Press, 2009. Poem reprinted from A Book of Minutes, Iris Press, 2004, by permission of Cathy Smith Bowers 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.