American Life in Poetry: Column 667

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

This is the sixth poem we've published by Peter Everwine, which testifies to how much I admire his writing. How fine it is when a memory arrives from the past to surprise us into happiness. Everwine lives in California, and his most recent book is Listening Long and Late from the University of Pittsburgh Press.

The Day

We walked at the edge of the sea, the dog,
still young then, running ahead of us.
 
Few people.  Gulls.  A flock of pelicans
circled beyond the swells, then closed
their wings and dropped head-long
into the dazzle of light and sea.  You clapped
your hands; the day grew brilliant.
 
Later we sat at a small table
with wine and food that tasted of the sea.
 
A perfect day, we said to one another,
so that even when the day ended
and the lights of houses among the hills
came on like a scattering of embers,
we watched it leave without regret.
 
That night, easing myself toward sleep,
I thought how blindly we stumble ahead
with such hope, a light flares briefly—Ah, Happiness!
then we turn and go on our way again.
 
But happiness, too, goes on its way,
and years from where we were, I lie awake
in the dark and suddenly it returns—
that day by the sea, that happiness,
 
though it is not the same happiness,
not the same darkness.


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 ©2016 by Peter Everwine, “The Day,” from New Letters, (Vol 83, no. 1, 2016-17). Poem reprinted by permission of Peter Everwine 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.