American Life in Poetry: Column 363

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Psychologists must have a word for it, the phenomenon of shifting the focus of sadness from the source of that sadness to something else. Here’s a fine poem on this subject by Penelope Scambly Schott, who lives in Oregon.

Second Tour

While my husband packed to fly back to Vietnam,
this time as a tourist instead of a soldier,

I drove to the zoo to say goodbye to the musk oxen
who were being shipped out early next morning

to Tacoma. We were getting lions instead.
When I got there, it was too easy to park.

The zoo was closing early so they wouldn’t let me in.
I went back to my car and slid into the driver’s seat.

Sobs tore from deep in my chest, I who had never
seen a musk ox and never cared until now.


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 Penelope Scambly Schott, from her most recent book of poems, Crow Mercies, Calyx Books, 2010. Poem first appeared in Arroyo Literary Review, Vol. 2, Spring 2010. Reprinted by permission of Penelope Scambly Schott and the publishers. 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.