American Life in Poetry: Column 135


What motivates us to keep moving forward through our lives, despite all the effort required to do so? Here, North Carolina poet Ruth Moose attributes human characteristics to an animal to speculate upon what that force might be.

The Crossing

The snail at the edge of the road   
inches forward, a trim gray finger   
of a fellow in pinstripe suit.                                 
He’s burdened by his house      
that has to follow   
where he goes.  Every inch,   
he pulls together   
all he is,                                                
all he owns,                                                      
all he was given.                                          

The road is wide                                                      
but he is called                                                               
by something                                                      
that knows him                                                                  
on the other side.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2004 by Ruth Moose, whose most recent book of poetry is The Sleepwalker, Main Street Rag, 2007. Reprinted from 75 Poems on Retirement, edited by Robin Chapman and Judith Strasser, published by University of Iowa Press, 2007, by permission of the author and 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.