American Life in Poetry: Column 172


I don’t often talk about poetic forms in this column, thinking that most of my readers aren’t interested in how the clock works and would rather be given the time. But the following poem by Veronica Patterson of Colorado has a subtitle referring to a form, the senryu, and I thought it might be helpful to mention that the senryu is a Japanese form similar to haiku but dealing with people rather than nature. There; enough said. Now you can forget the form and enjoy the poem, which is a beautiful sketch of a marriage.

Marry Me

when I come late to bed   
I move your leg flung over my side—   
that warm gate   

nights you’re not here   
I inch toward the middle   
of this boat, balancing   

when I turn over in sleep   
you turn, I turn, you turn,   
I turn, you   

some nights you tug the edge   
of my pillow under your cheek,   
look in my dream   

pulling the white sheet   
over your bare shoulder   
I marry you again

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 © 2000 by Veronica Patterson, whose most recent book of poetry is This Is the Strange Part, Pudding House Publications, 2002. Poem reprinted from Swan, What Shores?, New York University Press, 2000, by permission of Veronica Patterson and New York University Press. 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.