American Life in Poetry: Column 488

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Here’s a poem by an Indiana poet, Shari Wagner, that has a delightful time describing the many sounds of running water.

Creek-Song

It begins in a cow lane
with bees and white clover,
courses along corn, rushes
accelerando against rocks.
It rises to a teetering pitch
as I cross a shaky tree-bridge,
syncopates a riff
over the dissonance
of trash—derelict icebox
with a missing door,
mohair loveseat sinking
into thistle. It winds through green
adder’s mouth, faint as the bells
of Holsteins heading home.
Blue shadows lengthen,
but the undertow
of a harmony pulls me on
through raspy Joe-pye-weed
and staccato-barbed fence.
It hums in a culvert
beneath cars, then empties
into a river that flows oboe-deep
past Indian dance ground, waterwheel
and town, past the bleached
stones in the churchyard,
the darkening hill.


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 ©2010 by The Christian Century. Shari Wagner’s most recent book of poetry is The Harmonist at Nightfall, Bottom Dog Press, 2013. Poem reprinted by permission of The Christian Century and the poet. Introduction copyright © 2016 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.