American Life in Poetry: Column 608


It's high time that a column about American life can at last offer a poem about romance fiction. Most of us poets are lucky to have a few hundred readers for our books, and that's only a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of devoted followers of bodice-rippers. Here's a poem by Marilyn L. Taylor, who lives in Wisconsin, that offers an explanation.

Aunt Eudora's Harlequin Romance

She turns the bedlamp on. The book falls open 
in her mottled hands, and while she reads
her mouth begins to quiver, forming words 
like Breathless. Promises. Elope.
As she turns the leaves, Eudora's cheek
takes on a bit of bloom. Her frowzy hair 
thickens and turns gold, her dim eyes clear,
the wattles vanish from her slender neck.
Her waist, emerging from its ring of flesh, 
bends to the side. Breasts that used to hang 
like pockets rise and ripen; her long legs 
tremble. Her eyes close, she holds her breath— 
the steamy pages flutter by, unread,
as lover after lover finds her bed.

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 Marilyn L. Taylor, “Aunt Eudora's Harlequin Romance,” from Third Wednesday, (Vol. IX, No. 1, 2015/2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Marilyn L. Taylor 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.