American Life in Poetry: Column 377

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Julie Suk is a North Carolinian who, like all good writers, has taught herself to pay attention to what’s happening right under her nose. Here’s a good example of her poetry.

Loving the Hands

I could make a wardrobe
with tufts of wool
caught on thistle and bracken.

Lost—the scraps
I might have woven whole cloth.

Come watch, the man says,
shearing sheep
with the precision of long practice,
fleece, removed all of a piece,
rolled in a neat bundle.

I’ve been so clumsy
with people who’ve loved me.

Straddling a ewe,
the man props its head on his foot,
leans down with clippers,
each pass across the coat a caress.

His dogs, lying nearby,
tremble at every move—as I do,
loving the hands that have learned
to gentle the life beneath them.


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 ©2011 by Julie Suk, from her most recent book of poems, Lie Down with Me: New and Selected Poems, Autumn House Press, 2011. Poem reprinted by permission of Julie Suk and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2017 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.