American Life in Poetry: Column 548

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

This may be the only poem ever written in which a person claps the mud from a pair of shoes! Michael McFee’s poetry is just that original, in all of his books. His most recent is That Was Oasis (Carnegie Mellon Univ. Press, 2012), and he lives in North Carolina.

Ovation

He stood on his stoop
and clapped her sneakers together
hard, a sharp report,
smacking right sole against left,
trying to shock the mud
from each complicated tread,
spanking those expensive footprints
until clay flakes and plugs
ticked onto the boxwood’s leaves
like a light filthy sleet
from the rubber craters and crannies
where they stuck weeks ago,
until her shoes were banged clean
though that didn’t stop
his stiff-armed slow-motion applause
with her feet’s emptied gloves,
slapping mate against mate
without missing a beat,
half-wishing that hollow sound
echoing off their neighbors’ houses
could call her back.


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 ©2010 by Michael McFee, “Ovation,” (River Styx 83, 2010). Poem reprinted by permission of Michael McFee 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.