American Life in Poetry: Column 519

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Many of us have built models from kits—planes, ships cars. Here’s Robert Hedin, a Minnesota poet and the director of The Anderson Center at Tower View in Red Wing, trying to assemble a little order while his father is dying.

Raising the Titanic

I spent the winter my father died down in the basement,
under the calm surface of the floorboards, hundreds

of little plastic parts spread out like debris
on the table. And for months while the snow fell

and my father sat in the big chair by the Philco, dying,
I worked my way up deck by deck, story by story,

from steerage to first class, until at last it was done,
stacks, deck chairs, all the delicate rigging.

And there it loomed, a blazing city of the dead.
Then painted the gaping hole at the waterline

and placed my father at the railings, my mother
in a lifeboat pulling away from the wreckage.


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 ©2013 by Robert Hedin from his most recent book of poems, The Light Under the Door, (Red Dragonfly Press, 2013). Poem reprinted by permission of Robert Hedin 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.