American Life in Poetry: Column 561

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Here’s a New Year’s poem by Judy Ray, who lives and writes in Tucson. I like the way that common phrase, “the turning of a year,” has suggested to her the turns in a race track. Her most recent book is To Fly Without Wings, (Helicon Nine Editions, 2009).

Turning of the Year

We never know if the turn
is into the home stretch.
We call it that—a stretch
of place and time—
with vision of straining,
racing.  We acknowledge
each turn with cheers
though we don’t know
how many laps remain.
But we can hope the course
leads on far and clear
while the horses have strength
and balance on their lean legs,
fine-tuned muscles, desire
for the length of the run.
Some may find the year smooth,
others stumble at obstacles
along the way.  We never know
if the finish line will be reached
after faltering, slowing,
or in mid-stride, leaping forward.


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 ©2012 by Judy Ray, “Turning of the Year,” from The Whirlybird Anthology of Kansas City Writers, (Whirlybird Press, 2012). Poem reprinted by permission of Judy Ray 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.