American Life in Poetry: Column 446

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Anyone who has followed this column since its introduction in 2005 knows how much I like poems that describe places. Here’s one by Joseph Hutchison, who lives in Colorado. This is the kind of scene that Edward Hopper might have painted. I especially love the way Hutchison captures the buzz of the neon sign.

Winter Sunrise Outside a Café

        Near Butte, Montana

A crazed sizzle of blazing bees
in the word EAT. Beyond it,

thousands of stars have faded
like deserted flowers in the thin

light washing up in the distance,
flooding the snowy mountains

bluff by bluff. Moments later,
the sign blinks, winks dark,

and a white-aproned cook—
surfacing in the murky sheen

of the window—leans awhile
like a cut lily . . . staring out

into the famished blankness
he knows he must go home to.

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 Joseph Hutchison, whose most recent book of poems is Marked Men, Turning Point Books, 2013. Reprinted from Thread of the Real, Conundrum Press, 2012, by permission of Joseph Hutchison 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.