American Life in Poetry: Column 594

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Readers of this column have probably noticed how much I love poems that give us new ways of looking at things, and in this example Faith Shearin does just that. I especially like "four-legged relative / of the moon," which so perfectly describes the coat of a possum in partial light. Shearin lives in West Virginia and her most recent book is Orpheus, Turning, from The Broadkill River Press.

Possum in the Garbage

He was a surprise of white: his teeth
like knives, his face a triangle
of albino dislike. I had seen him before,
 
on our back porch, where my father
sometimes left watermelon rinds,
and he dipped his tongue into them,
 
his skin glowing beneath our lights,
like some four-legged relative
of the moon. I knew him
as a citizen of the night:
 
a fainting, ghostly presence
with a tail so naked it was
embarrassed to drag behind him.
 
But that morning, terrified and violent,
he was different: a hissing fury
at the bottom of the garbage can,
a vampire bathed in light.
 


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 Faith Shearin, “Possum in the Garbage,” from Orpheus, Turning, (The Broadkill River Press, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Faith Shearin 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.