American Life in Poetry: Column 416

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

This kite-flying poem caught me right up and sent me flying as soon as Robert Gibb described those dimestore kites furled tighter than umbrellas, a perfect image. Gibb lives in Pennsylvania.

Kites

Come March we’d find them
In the five-and-dimes,
Furled tighter than umbrellas
About their slats, the air

In an undertow above us
Like weather on the maps.
We’d play out lines
Of kite string, tugging against

The bucking sideways flights.
Readied for assembly,
I’d arc the tensed keel of balsa
Into place against the crosspiece,

Feeling the paper snap
Tautly as a sheet, then lift
The almost weightless body
Up to where it hauled me

Trolling into the winds—
Knotted bows like vertebrae
Flashing among fields
Of light. Why ruin it

By recalling the aftermaths?
Kites gone down in tatters,
Kites fraying like flotsam
From the tops of the trees.


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 ©2012 by Robert Gibb from his most recent book of poems, Sheet Music, Autumn House Press, 2012. Poem reprinted by permission of Robert Gibb and Autumn House Press. 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.