American Life in Poetry: Column 604


Garrison Keillor has used a number of George Bilgere's poems on The Writer's Almanac, and I've used several in this column, and it seems neither of us can get quite enough of this writer's clear, honest and moving work. This poem is from a recent issue of River Styx. Bilgere lives near Lake Erie and his most recent book is Imperial, from The University of Pittsburgh Press.

The Forge

I remember watching my father stop
halfway up the driveway because my tricycle
was blocking the way to the garage,
and how he solved the problem
by picking up the tricycle by the handlebars
and smashing it through the windshield
of our brand new family station wagon,
his face red with scotch, his black tie
and jacket flapping with effort, the tricycle
making its way a little farther with each blow
into the roomy interior of the latest model
as the safety glass relented, the tricycle
and the windshield both praiseworthy
in their toughness, the struggle between them
somehow making perfect sense
in midday on our quiet suburban street,
the windshield the anvil, the trike the hammer,
the marriage the forge, and failure
glowing in the heat, beaten
and tempered, slowly taking shape.

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 ©2015 by George Bilgere, “The Forge,” (River Styx, Vol. 95, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of George Bilgere and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2018 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.