American Life in Poetry: Column 672


So many contemporary poems fail for the lack of strong endings, but here's one with a masterful latch that snaps closed at the end. Tami Haaland served as Montana's fifth poet laureate and she teaches at Montana State at Billings. The following poem is from South Dakota Review.


When I open the door
and reach to the light switch
the world opens as it did each time.
The garlic jar on the ledge,
the ceramic cup holding
cheese cutters and paring knives.
Outside a branch
from the ash tree
worries the window.
It was a place where I knew
the drawer pulls, the feel of steps
to the basement, the smell of cool cement.
If I open the middle cabinet,
the linen is there as you left it,
well-ordered, none of it fine.

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 Tami Haaland from South Dakota Review, (Vol. 52, nos. 3 & 4, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Tami Haaland 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.