American Life in Poetry: Column 175


A part of being a parent, it seems, is spending too much time fearing the worst. Here Berwyn Moore, a Pennsylvania poet, expresses that fear—irrational, but exquisitely painful all the same.

Driving to Camp Lend-A-Hand

The day we picked our daughter up from camp,
goldenrod lined the road, towheaded scouts
bowing on both sides, the parting of macadam
as we drove, the fields dry, the sky lacy with clouds.
A farmer waved.  A horse shrugged its haughty head.
We stopped for corn, just picked, and plums and kale,
sampled pies, still warm, and tarts and honeyed bread.
Sheets on a line ballooned out like a ship’s sail.
Time stopped in those miles before we saw her.
For eight days we hadn’t tucked her in or brushed
her hair or watched her grow, the week a busy blur
of grown-up bliss.  It came anyway, that uprush
of fear—because somewhere a child was dead:
at a market, a subway, a school, in a lunatic’s bed.

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 ©2006 by Berwyn Moore, whose most recent book of poetry is Dissolution of Ghosts, Cherry Grove Collections, 2005. Poem reprinted from Nimrod International Journal of Poetry and Prose, Vol. 49, no. 2, by permission of Berwyn Moore. 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.