American Life in Poetry: Column 615


I'm fond of poems in which we see people working together, helping one another. I've never folded a sail, nor seen anybody fold one, but here I get to watch it happen, and feel it happen, too. Alan Feldman is from Massachusetts and his most recent book is Immortality (University of Wisconsin Press, 2015).

Love Poem

The sail is so vast when it's laid out on the driveway.
I stake it with a screwdriver through the shackle
at the tack to stretch it smooth,
pulling on the head and clew. Now it's smooth
as a night's worth of new snow.

My wife, my partner, has been torn from her busy day.
We face each other across the sail's foot
and with my right hand and her left hand
(I'm right handed, she's left handed)
we pull an arm's length of the sail
down over itself, then do this again,
keeping my left hand, and her right hand, towards the foot.

Each fold is easier since the sail grows narrower
near the top. Then we fold towards each other
and I wrap my arms around it, while she holds the bag's mouth open,
the gray bag that will cover it through the winter.
Then I thank her. And the driveway is visible again
as it is in spring, when all the snow has melted.

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 ©2014 by Alan Feldman, “Love Poem,” from Immortality (University of Wisconsin Press,2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Alan Feldman 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.