American Life in Poetry: Column 149


Elsewhere in this newspaper you may find some advice for maintaining and repairing troubled relationships. Here, in a poem by Linda Pastan of Maryland, is one of those relationships in need of some help.

The Quarrel

If there were a monument   
to silence, it would not be   
the tree whose leaves   
murmur continuously   
among themselves;   

nor would it be the pond   
whose seeming stillness   
is shattered   
by the quicksilver   
surfacing of fish.   

If there were a monument   
to silence, it would be you   
standing so upright, so unforgiving,   
your mute back deflecting   
every word I say.

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 © 2007 by Linda Pastan, whose most recent book of poetry is “Queen of a Rainy Country,” W. W. Norton & Co., 2006 . Reprinted from “Solo Café 2: Oppression & Forgiveness,” Vol. 2, Solo Press, 2007, by permission of Linda Pastan. 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.