American Life in Poetry: Column 575

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Susan Aizenberg lives and teaches in Omaha, and the following poem is from Quiet City, published by BkMk Press. My father and perhaps yours, too, found a little pleasure in an early morning walk. 

Mornings

Before the train screamed him through tunnels
to his windowless office, the idiots
he had to "sir," my father needed a space
without us, so in a crack of light from the bathroom,
he dressed, held his shoes by two fingers,
and left us sleeping. That walk

to the diner, the last stars fading out,
the sky lightening from black to blue to white,
was his time. He walked in all weather,
let each season touch him all over,
lifted his face to rain and sun. He liked
to watch the old houses stir awake
and nod to the woman in her slippers on 27th,
smoking as she strolled her little mutt.
To step back, smooth as Fred Astaire,
from the paperboy's wild toss.

Milk bottles sweated on doorsteps,
sweet cream on top, and once, he lifted a quart
from its wire basket, drank it down
beneath our neighbor's winking porch light,
and left the empty on the stoop.


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 Susan Aizenberg, “Mornings,” from Quiet City, (BkMk Press, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Susan Aizenberg 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.