American Life in Poetry: Column 352

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Here’s a moving poem about parenthood, about finding one’s self to be an adult but still trying to care for the child within. Mark Jarman teaches at Vanderbilt University.

After Disappointment

To lie in your child’s bed when she is gone
Is calming as anything I know. To fall
Asleep, her books arranged above your head,
Is to admit that you have never been
So tired, so enchanted by the spell
Of your grown body. To feel small instead
Of blocking out the light, to feel alone,
Not knowing what you should or shouldn’t feel,
Is to find out, no matter what you’ve said
About the cramped escapes and obstacles
You plan and face and have to call the world,
That there remain these places, occupied
By children, yours if lucky, like the girl
Who finds you here and lies down by your side.


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 ©1997 by Mark Jarman and reprinted from Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems, Sarabande Books, 2011, by permission of Mark Jarman 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.