American Life in Poetry: Column 514


We describe people we admire by throwing around words like “indomitable spirit,” but here’s an example and a proof by Don Welch, a Nebraska poet.

Shuffling Out Toward Morning

After an hour in the infusion lab,
Taxol dripping into her,
fighting her cancer;

after sitting nauseous
next to a man
vomiting into a Pepsi cup,

she rose, palming the wall,
stooping only to pick up
a pen a doctor had dropped,

giving it back to the doctor
who had slipped it poorly
into his coat.

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 ©2013 by Don Welch, whose most recent book of poems is Gnomes, (Stephen F. Austin Univ. Press, 2013). Poem reprinted by permission of Don Welch. 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.