American Life in Poetry: Column 008
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of poems have been written to express the grief of losing a parent. Many of the most telling of these attach the sense of loss to some object, some personal thing left behind, as in this elegy to her mother by a Nebraskan, Karma Larsen:
It was the moonflowers that surprised us.
Early summer we noticed the soft gray foliage.
She asked for seedpods every year but I never saw them in her garden.
Never knew what she did with them.
Exotic and tropical, not like her other flowers.
I expected her to throw them in the pasture maybe,
a gift to the coyotes. Huge, platterlike white flowers
shining in the night to soften their plaintive howling.
A sound I love; a reminder, even on the darkest night,
that manicured lawns don't surround me.
Midsummer they shot up, filled the small place by the back door,
sprawled over sidewalks, refused to be ignored.
Gaudy and awkward by day,
by night they were huge, soft, luminous.
Only this year, this year of her death
did they break free of their huge, prickly husks
and brighten the darkness she left.
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 © by Karma Larsen, and reprinted by permission of the author. 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.