American Life in Poetry: Column 624


Charles Peek is a Nebraska poet who lives near that section of the Platte River where early each year hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes pause in their migration to nourish themselves for the long flight north. There have been many poems written about the cranes, but this one reaches a little further into our lives. Peek's recent collection of poems is Breezes on their Way to Being Winds, from Finishing Line Press.

Unlike objects, two stories can occupy the same space

Out along the last curve in the brick walk
the grass has begun to green,
with the freezing cold and coming snow
its certain fate.

The cranes make the same mistake,
fields of red capped heads attest their arrival
just before the worst blizzard of winter
makes it impossible to tell the field from the river.

And we, too, have known these mortal mishaps,
miscalculated our time, found ourselves out of step,
arriving too early, staying on too late,
misjudging the nearness, the vengeance of the storm.

The cranes, the grass, they tell us:
this can go on for millions of years.

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 Charles Peek, “Unlike objects, two stories can occupy the same space,” (2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Charles Peek. 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.