American Life in Poetry: Column 540

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

The following is just one of three fine poems John Drury, who lives and teaches in Ohio, has written about the summer jobs he had when young. Many of us have thought, with him, “So this is experience,” though we might have added a question mark. His most recent book of poems is Sea Level Rising, published by Able Muse Press.

Motor Lodge

“So this is it, experience,” I thought,
lugging tin buckets from the ice machines
to rooms of real adults with cigarettes,
mixed drinks in plastic cups, and proffered coins.

I reached out for their blessings, but the tips
were nothing next to rumpled, unmade beds
at four in the afternoon, women in slips
and men in t-shirts while the TV played.

Down in the laundry room, I counted sheets,
stunned by the musk that vanished in the wash,
and balled up soggy towels that down the chutes
exploded in bins. Before the evening rush,

avid and timid for what I glimpsed at work,
I left, hanging my gold vest on a hook.


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 ©2000 by John Philip Drury, “Motor Lodge,” from The Disappearing Town, (Miami University Press, 2000). Poem reprinted by permission of John Drury and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2017 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.