American Life in Poetry: Column 618


Seeing a stranger who reminds you of someone else, well, it happens to all of us. After my father died I saw dozens of little old men in hats like he wore, on their way here and there, not quite my dad, but close. Here Jonathan Bracker, who lives in San Francisco, sees for a moment someone he was once in love with. His most recent collection of poems is This Day (WordTech Press, 2015).

Going Down

Going down the escalator
of the subway, I glanced across
and saw on the escalator's partner
rising up
someone who looked a bit like you but with hair
not so soft and clean and warm as yours
brushing against mine
on those rare occasions
when inadvertently our foreheads
neared, making me wish it to stay.

We were not physical lovers
and never could have been.
But we were close. Moved three states away,
married happily or not, you are now
only a person I may hope to meet
momentarily, and not really then: merely
in my mind, because of what I chance to see.
But I am not unhappy about this
or think that I am not. Because of your hair.
Because of your beautiful hair.

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© 2016 by Jonathan Bracker, “Going Down." Poem reprinted by permission of Jonathan Bracker. 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.