American Life in Poetry: Column 199


I’d guess that most of us carry in our memories landscapes that, far behind us, hold significant meanings for us. For me, it’s a Mississippi River scenic overlook south of Guttenberg, Iowa. And for you? Here’s just such a memoryscape, in this brief poem by New Yorker Anne Pierson Wiese.

Inscrutable Twist

The twist of the stream was inscrutable.
It was a seemingly run-of-the-mill
stream that flowed for several miles by the side
of Route 302 in northern Vermont—
and presumably does still—but I’ve not
been back there for what seems like a long time.

I have it in my mind’s eye, the way
one crested a rise and rounded a corner
on the narrow blacktop, going west, and saw
off to the left in the flat green meadow
the stream turning briefly back on itself
to form a perfect loop—a useless light-filled
water noose or fragment of moon’s cursive,
a sign or message of some kind—but left behind.

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 Anne Pierson Wiese, whose most recent book of poetry is Floating City,” Louisiana State University Press, 2007. Poem reprinted from “Ploughshares,” Vol. 33, no. 4, Winter 2007-08 by permission of Anne Pierson Wiese. 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.