American Life in Poetry: Column 674


One thing I've tried to do with this column is to show off poets who do indeed write about contemporary American life, and who see deep into the ordinary parts of it. Here's a fine poem by Heid Erdrich, who lives in Minnesota, about doing the laundry. It's from her book Curator of Ephemera at the New Museum for Archaic Media, published by Michigan State University Press.


Given over to love,
she un-balls the socks,
lets fall debris of days,
leaf litter, sand grain,
slub of some sticky substance,
picks it all for the sake
of the stainless tub
of the gleaming new front loader.
Given over to love long ago, when her own
exasperated moan bounced off
the quaint speckled enamel
of the top loader
vowing: she'd do this always and well.
She fell in love then, she fell in line—
in a march of millions, you pair them,
two by two, you marry the socks.

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 ©2017 by Heid E. Erdrich from Curators of Ephemera at the New Museum for Archaic Media, (Michigan State University Press, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Heid E. Erdrich 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.