American Life in Poetry: Column 600
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Nick Norwood's most recent book is Gravel and Hawk, published by Ohio University Press. This poem has sorrow at the top and happiness at the bottom, which means there's a lot of living in between. It's from the quarterly journal Five Points. Norwood lives and teaches in Georgia.
Dad dead, Mom—back in the bank, tellering—
started dressing in cute skirts and pants suits
she sewed herself from onionskin patterns
and bright-colored knits picked up at Cloth World.
Got her dark brunette hair cut in a shag.
And she and her single girlfriends from work
on a weekday night would leave me to "Love
American Style" or Mary Tyler Moore
and step out to hear the country house band
or now-and-then headliners like Ray Price
and Merle Haggard. Mom's blue Buick Wildcat
shoulder to shoulder with the other Detroit
behemoths in the dim lot around back.
Wind skittering trash along the street. Bass
notes thumping through the sheet-metal walls
and the full swinging sound suddenly blaring
when a couple came in or out the door.
I know because I'm there, now, in the lot,
crouched behind the fender of a Skylark
or Riviera, in the weird green glow
of the rooftop Ronnie's sign, not keeping tabs
on Mom, not watching out, just keeping time
with the band and sipping a Slurpee
while she dances through this two-year window
before getting re-hitched, settling back down.
Just twenty-seven, twenty-eight years old,
looking pretty, having the time of her life.
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 ©2015 by Nick Norwood, “Ronnie's (Five Points, Vol. 17, no. 1, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Nick Norwood 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.