American Life in Poetry: Column 457
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Here’s a vivid portrayal of one of those school events to which parents are summoned and to which they go both dutifully and with love. The poet, Maryann Corbett, lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Forgive us. We have dragged them into the night
in taffeta dresses, in stiff collars and ties,
with the wind damp, the sleet raking their cheeks,
to school lunchrooms fitted with makeshift stages
where we will sit under bad fluorescent lighting
on folding chairs, and they will sing and play.
We will watch the first grader with little cymbals,
bending her knees, hunched in concentration
while neighbors snicker at her ardent face.
Forgive us. We will hear the seventh-grade boy
as his voice finally loses its innocence
forever, at the unbearable solo moment
and know that now, for years, he will wince at the thought
of singing, yet will ache to sing, in silence,
silence even to the generation to come
with its night, its sleet, its hideous lunchroom chairs.
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 ©2013 by Maryann Corbett, from her most recent book of poems, Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter, Able Muse Press, 2013. Poem reprinted by permission of Maryann Corbett and the 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.