American Life in Poetry: Column 570

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Here's a poem of loss by Jo McDougall, from her collected poems, In the Home of the Famous Dead, from The University of Arkansas Press. Like many deeply moving poems, it doesn't tell us everything; it tells us just enough. Ms. McDougall lives and writes in Little Rock.

This Morning

As I drove into town
the driver in front of me
runs a stop sign.
A pedestrian pulls down his cap.
A man comes out of his house
to sweep the steps.
Ordinariness
bright as raspberries.

I turn on the radio.
Somebody tells me
the day is sunny and warm.
A woman laughs

and my daughter steps out of the radio.
Grief spreads in my throat like strep.
I had forgotten, I was happy, I maybe
was humming "You Are My Lucky Star,"
a song I may have invented.
Sometimes a red geranium, a dog,
a stone
will carry me away.
But not for long.
Some memory or another of her
catches up with me and stands
like an old nun behind a desk,
ruler in hand.


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 Jo McDougall, This Morning,” from In the Home of the Famous Dead: Collected Poems, (The University of Arkansas Press, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Jo McDougall 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.