American Life in Poetry: Column 214


Sometimes I wonder at my wife's forbearance. She's heard me tell the same stories dozens of times, and she still politely laughs when she should. Here's a poem by Susan Browne, of California, that treats an oft-told story with great tenderness.

On Our Eleventh Anniversary

You're telling that story again about your childhood,   
when you were five years old and rode your blue bicycle   

from Copenhagen to Espergaerde, and it was night   
and snowing by the time you arrived,   

and your grandparents were so relieved to see you,   
because all day no one knew where you were,   

you had vanished. We sit at our patio table under a faded green   
umbrella, drinking wine in California's blue autumn,   

red stars of roses along the fence, trellising over the roof   
of our ramshackle garage. Too soon the wine glasses will be empty,   

our stories told, the house covered with pine needles the wind   
has shaken from the trees. Other people will live here.   

We will vanish like children who traveled far in the dark,   
stars of snow in their hair, riding to enchanted Espergaerde.

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 Susan Browne. Poem reprinted from Mississippi Review Vol. 35, nos. 1-2, Spring 2007, and reprinted 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.