American Life in Poetry: Column 557

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Debra Marquart, who teaches at Iowa State, is a poet, a memoirist, a writer of stories and a singer with her own R & B group, The Bone People. She knows the musician's life, and here's a road poem from her most recent book from New Rivers Press, Small Buried Things.

Traveling with Guitar

For you can travel with a screaming red rolling bag
and float unnoticed on conveyors, through terminals

or you can lug half a moose rack from Maine
to Minnesota, carry it like a broken wing through airports

as my friend Gro did, and draw only the curious touches
of children waiting at gates. But dare to travel with a guitar

and invite confessions from strangers in pinstripe suits
of garage band summers, invite winks, gotcha smiles,

and devil's horns rock on gestures. Invite finger points
and winks, the long tongue licks, and the rubberneck glance

to check if you are someone famous. To dare to travel
with a guitar is to mark yourself charismatic megafauna

of the airport terminal. Old friend, what else could I do
but carry you? I have stored you in closets, propped you

in corners, hunched over you late-nights, staring perplexed
at the mysteries of your neck. Body of my body, string

of my strings, see how the world began to hum and sing
that day at thirteen when I opened the big birthday box.


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 ©2015 by Debra Marquart Traveling with Guitar,” from Small Buried Things, (New Rivers Press, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Debra Marquart 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.