American Life in Poetry: Column 366

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

I don’t think we’ve ever published a poem about a drinker. Though there are lots of poems on this topic, many of them are too judgmental for my liking. But here’s one I like, by Jeanne Wagner, of Kensington, California, especially for its original central comparison.

My mother was like the bees

because she needed a lavish taste
on her tongue,
a daily tipple of amber and gold
to waft her into the sky,
a soluble heat trickling down her throat.
Who could blame her
for starting out each morning
with a swig of something furious
in her belly, for days
when she dressed in flashy lamé
leggings like a starlet,
for wriggling and dancing a little madly,
her crazy reels and her rumbas,
for coming home wobbly
with a flicker of clover’s inflorescence
still clinging to her clothes,
enough to light the darkness
of a pitch-black hive.


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 Jeanne Wagner from her most recent book of poetry, In the Body of Our Lives, Sixteen Rivers Press, 2010. Poem reprinted by permission of Jeanne Wagner 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.