American Life in Poetry: Column 110
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
I’ve talked a lot in this column about poetry as celebration, about the way in which a poem can make an ordinary experience seem quite special. Here’s the celebration of a moment on a campus somewhere, anywhere. The poet is Juliana Gray, who lives in New York. I especially like the little comic surprise with which it closes.
Summer Downpour on CampusWhen clouds turn heavy, rich
and mottled as an oyster bed,
when the temperature drops so fast
that fog conjures itself inside the cars,
as if the parking lots were filled
with row upon row of lovers,
when my umbrella veils my face
and threatens to reverse itself
at every gust of wind, and rain
lashes my legs and the hem of my skirt,
but I am walking to meet a man
who’ll buy me coffee and kiss my fingers—
what can be more beautiful, then,
than these boys sprinting through the storm,
laughing, shouldering the rain aside,
running to their dorms, perhaps to class,
carrying, like torches, their useless shoes?
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 The Louisville Review, (No. 59, Spring 2006) by permission of the author. Copyright © 2006 by Juliana Gray, whose most recent book of poetry is The Man Under My Skin, River City Publishing, 2005. 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.