American Life in Poetry: Column 463

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

This touching poem by Dan Gerber, who lives in California, captures the memory of a father’s advice, but beneath the practical surface of that advice we can sense a great deal of emotion, which shows through a little crack at the moment the father clears his voice before continuing.

Advice

You know how, after it rains,
my father told me one August afternoon
when I struggled with something
hurtful my best friend had said,
how worms come out and
crawl all over the sidewalk
and it stays a big mess
a long time after it’s over
if you step on them?

Leave them alone,
he went on to say,
after clearing his throat,
and when the rain stops,
they crawl back into the ground.


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 Dan Gerber, from his most recent book of poems, Sailing through Cassiopeia, Copper Canyon Press, 2012. Poem reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. 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.