American Life in Poetry: Column 455
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
I don’t remember ever having a blind date, but if I had, I suspect it would have gone just as the one goes in this poem by Jay Leeming, who lives in New York state.
Our loneliness sits with us at dinner, an unwanted guest
who never says anything. It’s uncomfortable. Still
we get to know each other, like students allowed
to use a private research library for only one night.
I go through her file of friends, cities and jobs.
“What was that like?” I ask. “What did you do then?”
We are each doctors who have only ourselves
for medicine, and long to prescribe it for what ails
the other. She has a nice smile. Maybe, maybe . . .
I tell myself. But my heart is a cynical hermit
who frowns once, then shuts the door of his room
and starts reading a book. All I can do now is want
to want her. Our polite conversation coasts
like a car running on fumes, and then rolls to a stop;
we split the bill, and that third guest at the table
goes home with each of us, to talk and talk.
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.
Jay Leeming’s most recent book of poems is Miracle Atlas, Big Pencil Press, 2011. Poem copyright © 2011 by Jay Leeming and reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher.
Introduction copyright © 2013 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.