American Life in Poetry: Column 150
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
There’s a world of great interest and significance right under our feet, but most of us don’t think to look down. We spend most of our time peering off into the future, speculating on how we will deal with whatever is coming our way. Or dwelling on the past. Here Ed Ochester stops in the middle of life to look down.
What the Frost Casts UpA crown of handmade nails, as though
there were a house here once, burned,
where we’ve gardened for fifteen years;
the ceramic top of an ancient fuse;
this spring the tiny head of a plastic doll—
not much compared to what they find
in England, where every now and then
a coin of the Roman emperors, Severus
or Constantius, works its way up, but
something, as though nothing we’ve
ever touched wants to stay in the earth,
the patient artifacts waiting, having been lost
or cast away, as though they couldn’t bear
the parting, or because they are the only
messengers from lives that were important once,
waiting for the power of the frost
to move them to the mercy of our hands.
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 © 2001 by Ed Ochester. Reprinted from Unreconstructed: Poems Selected and New by Ed Ochester, Autumn House Press, 2007, by permission of the author and publisher. 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.