American Life in Poetry: Column 530

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Poets often do their best work when they’re telling us about something they’ve seen without stepping into the poem and talking about themselves. Here’s a lovely poem of observation by Terri Kirby Erickson, who lives in North Carolina.

Hospital Parking Lot

Headscarf fluttering in the wind,
stockings hanging loose on her vein-roped
legs, an old woman clings to her husband

as if he were the last tree standing in a storm,
though he is not the strong one.

His skin is translucent—more like a window
than a shade. Without a shirt and coat,

we could see his lungs swell and shrink,
his heart skip. But he has offered her his arm,
and for sixty years, she has taken it.


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 © 2014 by Terri Kirby Erickson, “Hospital Parking Lot,” from A Lake of Light and Clouds (Press 53, 2014). Poem reprinted by permission of Terri Kirby Erickson and Press 53. 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.