American Life in Poetry: Column 673


"How do I know what I think until I see what I say?" has been attributed to a half dozen different writers. It can be helpful in encouraging people to write, but also in describing poetry that arises out of meditation. Greg Kosmicki is a Nebraska poet whose work is deeply thoughtful but also cordial and conversational. Here's an example from his new book It's as Good Here as it Gets Anywhere, from Logan House Press.

You Never Get One Thing

This notebook is so old the paper is yellow.
I wonder where the tree grew.
Seems like you never get one thing without losing another.
There's some sort of law about that
to do with finite resources.
Somewhere some guys have figured out to the exact ounce
how much my life has cost the earth,
how many people have died that I might live.
Start with my parents, and theirs, and all who died
because of them. It's like we drip in blood.
Who can wake up then tomorrow morning,
do the tasks set out before them
as if it was their work and their work only?
Who has the courage to look out to the east again
at someone else's sun?

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 Greg Kosmicki from It's as Good Here as it Gets Anywhere, Logan House Press, 2016. Poem reprinted by permission of Greg Kosmicki 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.