American Life in Poetry: Column 429

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Here’s a poem by Robin Chapman, from Wisconsin, that needs no introduction, because we’ve all known an elderly person who’s much like this one.

Time

My neighbor, 87, rings the doorbell to ask
if I might have seen her clipping shears
that went missing a decade ago,
with a little red paint on their shaft,
or the iron turkey bank and the porcelain
coffee cup that disappeared a while back
when her friend, now dead, called the police
to break in to see if she were ill, and have we
had trouble with our phone line, hers
is dead and her car and driver’s license
are missing though she can drive perfectly
well, just memory problems, and her son
is coming this morning to take her up
to Sheboygan, where she was born
and where the family has its burial lots,
to wait on assisted living space, and she
just wanted to say we’d been good neighbors
all these how many? years, and how lucky
I am to have found such a nice man
and could she borrow a screwdriver,
the door lock to her house is jammed.


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 Robin Chapman, whose most recent book of poems is the eelgrass meadow, Tebot Bach, 2011. Poem reprinted from the Alaska Quarterly Review, Volume 28, nos. 1&2 (Spring/Summer 2011) by permission of Robin Chapman 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.