American Life in Poetry: Column 689


If God is in the details, well, so is love. What makes this poem by Susanna Lang feel fresh and new are the specific details of not only one love, but of one morning, and of even a few specific moments in that one morning. Susanna Lang lives in Chicago, and this poem is from her new book, Travel Notes from the River Styx, from Terrapin Books.

After You Get Up Early on Memorial Day

You take the cats out with you, shut
the door: I have the whole wide bed, all
the covers to fall back asleep in, while you
cut up and sugar the strawberries, grind
the coffee, leave the radio off
so I won't be disturbed. The room is still
dark, rain forecast for the entire day,
other people's family picnics cancelled,
barbecues moved into basements, parades
rerouted to avoid flooded viaducts, the iris
losing petals beside newly cleaned graves,
their mason jars spilt into the saturated ground.
But here is my holiday, this drift back beneath thought
while I lie in the warm impression of your body.

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 Susanna Lang, "After You Get Up Early on Memorial Day," from Travel Notes from the River Styx, (Terrapin Books, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Susanna Lang 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.