American Life in Poetry: Column 538

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Surely, some of you have paged through an old book and come upon a dried flower, fragile as a spider web, the colors faded. Here’s a fine poem about pressing flowers by Chelsea Woodard of New Hampshire, from her book Vellum.

The Flower Press

It was the sort of thing given to little girls:
sturdy and small, round edged, wooden and light.
I stalked the pasture’s rough and waist-high grass
for worthy specimens: the belle amid the mass,
the star shaming the clouds of slighter,
ordinary blooms. The asters curled

inside my sweat-damp palms, as if in sleep. Crushed
in the parlor’s stifling heat, I pried
each shrinking petal back, and turned the screws.
But flowers bear no ugly bruise,
and even now fall from the brittle page, dried
prettily, plucked from memory’s hush.



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 Chelsea Woodard, “The Flower Press,” from Vellum, (Able Muse Press, 2014). Poem reprinted by permission of Chelsea Woodard 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.