American Life in Poetry: Column 614
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
There are times when a single word in a poem is so perfect a choice that it pops like a firecracker, and I'll let you guess which word did that for me. A hint: it's a modifier. The poem is by Anya Krugovoy Silver, who lives in Georgia, from her new book, From Nothing, from LSU Press.
I stand in Walgreens while my mother sleeps.
The store is fluorescent and almost empty.
My father is ailing in a nursing home,
my friend is dying in the hospital.
What I want tonight is lipstick.
As pure a red as I can find—no coral
undertones, no rust or fawn. Just red.
Ignoring the salespeople, I untwist tubes
and scrawl each color on my wrist,
till the blue veins beneath my skin
disappear behind smeared bars. I select one.
Back in my mother's apartment, silence.
I limn my lips back out of my wan face.
There they are again: smacky and wanting.
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 ©2016 byAnya Krugovoy Silver, “Just Red,” from From Nothing,(Louisiana State University Press,2016). Poem reprinted by permission o fAnya Krugovoy Silver 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.