American Life in Poetry: Column 528


A couple I know adopted three very small children from a distant country, and the children had never been constrained in any way. The airliner’s seatbelts were so fearful for them that they screamed all the way back to the States. But since then their lives have been wonderfully happy. And here’s a similar story, this too with a good ending, by Patrick Hicks of South Dakota.

Settler's Creek

You’d been gone four months by then,
but we brought you along anyway.

On my back, you rested
riding inside a wooden box.

The idea was to lay you gently
at the water’s surface,

but our clumsy hands spilled you,
and it was hard to tell whether you went head

or feet first, but it didn’t much matter
anyway, I suppose.

You would float on down the creek
until you had reached the next and so on.

My father gave a little wave and joked,
“We’ll see you back on down in Denver, Dad.”

We stood there in silence
listening to you chuckle

under the bridge and over
the first set of riffles downstream.

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 Kyle Harvey, “Settler’s Creek,” from Hyacinth (Lithic Press, 2013). Poem reprinted by permission of Kyle Harvey and Lithic Press. 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.