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American Life in Poetry: Column 525

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Here’s a fine poem about two generations of husbands, by Pauletta Hansel of Ohio.


Husbands

My mother likes a man who works. She likes
my husband’s muddy knees, grass stains on the cuffs.
She loved my father, though when weekends came
he’d sleep till nine and would not lift
his eyes up from the page to move the feet
she’d vacuum under. On Saturdays my husband
digs the holes for her new roses,
softening the clay with peat and compost.
He changes bulbs she can no longer reach
and understands the inside of her toaster.
My father’s feet would carry him from chair
to bookshelf, back again till Monday came.
My mother likes to tell my husband
sit down in this chair and put your feet up.

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 ©2011 by Pauletta Hansel from her most recent book of poems, The Lives We Live in Houses, (Wind Publications, 2011). Poem reprinted by permission of Pauletta Hansel and the publisher.
Introduction copyright © 2015 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. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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