American Life in Poetry: Column 447

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Perhaps you’ve experienced the sudden, unsettling intimacy of putting on somebody else’s jacket and finding a wad of tissue in the pocket. Here’s a fine poem by Debra Nystrom, raised in South Dakota and now teaching in Virginia.

Little Parka

Dream of Mom’s red parka gone—
someone stole it right out of the closet
of the burned-down house—what
good could it do anybody else, broken
zipper that always got caught,
she’d jimmy it loose, just part
of putting it on—and she was so tiny,
the arms too short even for me,
too-tiny gloves in the pockets, thumbs
stubby, practically useless to anyone
but her—they deserve it if they shove in
a hand, find the tissue she used and then
left there who knows which cold day,
what she needed it for, or why.


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 ©2009 by Debra Nystrom, from her most recent book of poems, Bad River Road, Sarabande Books, 2009. Reprinted by permission of Debra Nystrom 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.