American Life in Poetry: Column 532

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

How’s this poem for its ability to collapse all the years from childhood to middle age in a matter of fifteen short lines? George Bilgere is one of this column’s favorite poets. He lives and teaches in Ohio.

The Wading Pool

The toddlers in their tadpole bodies,
with their squirt guns and snorkels,
their beautiful mommies and inflatable whales,
are still too young to understand
that this is as good as it gets.

Soon they must leave the wading pool
and stand all day at the concession stand
with their hormones and snow cones,
their soul patches and tribal tattoos,
pretending not to notice how beautiful they are,

until they simply can’t stand it
and before you know it
they’re lined up on lawn chairs,
dozing in the noonday sun
with their stretch marks and beer bellies,
their Wall Street Journals and SPF 50.


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 George Bilgere from his most recent book of poems, Imperial, (Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2014). Poem reprinted by permission of George Bilgere 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.