American Life in Poetry: Column 419

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

It pains an old booklover like me to think of somebody burning a book, but if you’ve gotten one for a quarter and it’s falling apart, well, maybe it’s OK as long as you might be planning to pick up a better copy. Here Ron Koertge, who lives in Pasadena, has some fun with the ashes of love poems.

Burning the Book

The anthology of love poems I bought
for a quarter is brittle, anyway, and comes
apart when I read it.

One at a time, I throw pages on the fire
and watch smoke make its way up
and out.

I’m almost to the index when I hear
a murmuring in the street. My neighbors
are watching it snow.

I put on my blue jacket and join them.
The children stand with their mouths
open.

I can see nounslonging, rapture, bliss
land on every tongue, then disappear. 

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 Ron Koertge, whose most recent book of poems is Fever, Red Hen Press, 2006. Poem reprinted by permission of Ron Koertge. 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.