American Life in Poetry: Column 015
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Many of us are collectors, attaching special meaning to the inanimate objects we acquire. Here, Texas poet Janet McCann gives us insight into the significance of one woman's collection. The abundance and variety of detail suggest the clutter of such a life.
The Woman Who Collects Noah's ArksHas them in every room of her house,
wall hangings, statues, paintings, quilts and blankets,
ark lampshades, mobiles, Christmas tree ornaments,
t-shirts, sweaters, necklaces, books,
comics, a creamer, a sugar bowl, candles, napkins,
tea-towels and tea-tray, nightgown, pillow, lamp.
Animals two-by-two in plaster, wood,
fabric, oil paint, copper, glass, plastic, paper,
tinfoil, leather, mother-of-pearl, styrofoam,
clay, steel, rubber, wax, soap.
Why I cannot ask, though I would like
to know, the answer has to be simply
because. Because at night when she lies
with her husband in bed, the house rocks out
into the bay, the one that cuts in here to the flatlands
at the center of Texas. Because the whole wood structure
drifts off, out under the stars, beyond the last
lights, the two of them pitching and rolling
as it all heads seaward. Because they hear
trumpets and bellows from the farther rooms.
Because the sky blackens, but morning finds them always
safe on the raindrenched land,
bird on the windowsill.
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. Reprinted from PoemMemoirStory by permission of the author. Janet McCann's most recent book is Emily's Dress (Pecan Grove Press, 2005). Poem copyright © 2003 by Janet McCann. Introduction copyright © 2020 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.