American Life in Poetry: Column 431

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Here’s a splendid poem by James Doyle, who lives in Colorado, about the way children make up mythic selves that will in some way serve them in life. To create one’s self as a palm reader is only one of many possibilities.

In the Planetarium

I read the palms of the other
kids on the field trip to see
which ones would grow up

to be astronauts. The lifeline
on Betty Lou’s beautiful hand
ended the day after tomorrow,

so I told her how the rest
of our lives is vastly over-rated,
even in neighboring galaxies.

When she asked me how I knew
so much, I said I watched
War of the Worlds six times

and, if she went with me to
the double-feature tomorrow,
I’d finish explaining the universe.

I smiled winningly. The Halley’s Comet
lecture by our teacher whooshed in
my one ear and out the other.


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 James Doyle, from his most recent book of poems, The Long View Just Keeps Treading Water, Accents Publishing, 2012. Poem reprinted by permission of James Doyle 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.