American Life in Poetry: Column 336

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

This week’s column is by Ladan Osman, who is originally from Somalia but who now lives in Chicago. I like “Tonight” for the way it looks with clear eyes at one of the rough edges of American life, then greets us with a hopeful wave.

Tonight

Tonight is a drunk man,
his dirty shirt.

There is no couple chatting by the recycling bins,
offering to help me unload my plastics.

There is not even the black and white cat
that balances elegantly on the lip of the dumpster.

There is only the smell of sour breath. Sweat on the collar of my shirt.
A water bottle rolling under a car.
Me in my too-small pajama pants stacking juice jugs on neighbors’ juice jugs.

I look to see if there is someone drinking on their balcony.

I tell myself I will wave.


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 Ladan Osman, and reprinted by permission of the poet. 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.