American Life in Poetry: Column 341
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Here’s a poem of mixed feelings by Don Thompson to help us launch October. Thompson lives in Buttonwillow, California, which sounds like the name of a town in a children’s story, don’t you think?
I used to think the land
had something to say to us,
back when wildflowers
would come right up to your hand
as if they were tame.
Sooner or later, I thought,
the wind would begin to make sense
if I listened hard
and took notes religiously.
That was spring.
Now I’m not so sure:
the cloudless sky has a flat affect
and the fields plowed down after harvest
seem so expressionless,
keeping their own counsel.
This afternoon, nut tree leaves
blow across them
as if autumn had written us a long letter,
changed its mind,
and tore it into little scraps.
We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Don Thompson, whose most recent book of poetry is Where We Live, Parallel Press, 2009. Reprinted from Plainsongs, Vol. 30, no. 3, Spring 2010, by permission of Don Thompson and the 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.