American Life in Poetry: Column 234


This week’s poem is by a high school student, Michelle Bennett, who lives in Tukwila, Washington, and here she is taking a look at what comes next, Western Washington University in Bellingham, with everything new about it, including opportunity.


You find yourself in a narrow bed you’ve never slept in,
on a tree-lined grassy field you’ve never walked upon,
on a cold toilet seat you have not sat on,
in a place you now call your home, your learning, your future.
Red stone pathways expose the buildings that will house
the knowledge you seek,
and the information you want to gather.

You crane your neck to look up
at the 13-story brick tower rising from the ground,
looming over you as you walk past. The melodies
and beats of different songs mix,
create a sound of their own,
flow from open windows. Crushed leeks
Top Ramen noodles ground into a blue
and speckled carpet attract armies of ants
to the communal kitchen on the sixth floor.

You pull your jacket tighter against your body,
strong, salty wind whips off the Sound,
and up the hill as you walk through
Red Square toward the clatter of knives,
forks and digesting bellies.

Finally, you are released like a white dove
from the hands of its owner, allowed to fly
discovering your dreams,
discovering what you are made of.

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 ©2008 by Seattle Arts & Lectures. Reprinted from Dive Down Into the Loud, Seattle Arts & Letters, 2008, by permission of the author and publisher. 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.