American Life in Poetry: Column 148
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
I’ve written about the pleasures of poetry that offers us vivid scenes but which lets us draw our own conclusions about the implications of what we’re being shown. The poet can steer us a little by the selection of details, but a lot of the effect of the poem is in what is not said, in what we deduce. Lee McCarthy is a California poet, and here is something seen from across the street, something quite ordinary yet packed with life.
There’s a woman kissing a cowboy
across the street. His eight-year-old son
watches from the bus stop bench.
She’s really planting one on him,
his Stetson in danger.
It must have been some weekend.
Seeing no room in that embrace for himself,
the boy measures his future, legs
straight out in front of him.
Both hands hold onto a suitcase handle,
thin arms ready to prove themselves.
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 © 1992 by Lee McCarthy, whose most recent book of poetry is “Good Girl,” Story Line Press, 2002. Reprinted from “Combing Hair with a Seashell,” by Lee McCarthy, Ion Books, 1992, 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.