American Life in Poetry: Column 489


Jonathan Greene, who lives in Kentucky, is a master of the short poem, but while he prunes them down to their essentials he never cuts out the wonder and delight. Here’s a good example from his most recent book. Can you feel the exclamation point that’s suggested at the end? You can’t see it, but it’s there.

One Light to Another

The storm
turns off
the lights.

The lightning
lights the whereabouts
of the flashlight.

The flashlight
takes us to matches
and candles, the oil lamp.

Now we’re back,
the 19th century.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2013 by Jonathan Greene, from his most recent book of poems, Seeking Light: New & Selected Later Poems, Broadstone Books, 2013. Poem reprinted by permission of Jonathan Greene and the publisher. 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.