American Life in Poetry: Column 730

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Is it worse to live in a city where you can't see a big storm coming until it's right on top of you, or to be out on the plains where you can see it coming for almost too long? I like this long look at an approaching and then passing storm by Max Garland, who lives in Wisconsin. It's from his fine book, The Word We Used For It, from the University of Wisconsin Press.

Happiness

The storm was headed in our direction—
big loom of gray like the absolute West
leaned over us. Reports of damage
in the neighboring counties—a silo unfurled
and took wing, a house trailer
twisted loose. On the Doppler screen
the storm looked alive, yellow and green
at the fringes, with a fierce red heart
trending to violet. Sirens swept over
to scare it away, like songbirds
grow strident, circle and bluff
at the sight of an owl.
When the rain came in sheets,
I regretted my sins. When lightning
cracked the red pine's half-rotted heart,
I wished the world more joy
in general. When the worst was over
and the grass lay flat, but alive,
and the sky was a waning bruise,
I thought of that silo, how it wasn't mine,
and all that grain cast back into the world's
wind, maybe some of it still flying.


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 ©2017 by Max Garland, "Happiness," from The Word We Used For It, (University of Wisconsin Press, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Max Garland and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2019 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.