American Life in Poetry: Column 048
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Every parent can tell a score of tales about the difficulties of raising children, and then of the difficulties in letting go of them. Here the Texas poet, Walt McDonald, shares just such a story.
Some Boys are Born to Wander
From Michigan our son writes, How many elk?
How many big horn sheep? It's spring,
and soon they'll be gone above timberline,
climbing to tundra by summer. Some boys
are born to wander, my wife says, but rocky slopes
with spruce and Douglas fir are home.
He tried the navy, the marines, but even the army
wouldn't take him, not with a foot like that.
Maybe it's in the genes. I think of wild-eyed years
till I was twenty, and cringe. I loved motorcycles,
too dumb to say no to our son—too many switchbacks
in mountains, too many icy spots in spring.
Doctors stitched back his scalp, hoisted him in traction
like a twisted frame. I sold the motorbike to a junkyard,
but half his foot was gone. Last month, he cashed
his paycheck at the Harley house, roared off
with nothing but a backpack, waving his headband,
leaning into a downhill curve and gone.
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. First published in New Letters, Vol. 69, 2002, and reprinted from A Thousand Miles of Stars, 2004, by permission of the author and Texas Tech University Press. Copyright © 2002 by Walt McDonald. 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.