American Life in Poetry: Column 703


It's been a very long time since I was young, but I remember the giddiness of first love, and David Steingass, a Wisconsin poet, shows us in this poem how poetry can both recall and reflect that kind of emotional excitement. This is from his book, Hunt & Gather, from Red Dragonfly Press.


I vowed I'd quit ciggies on the heel of the mother
Of all hangovers. The world at noon pulsed a first
Columbus Ohio spring day. I'd fallen in love
Of course, as recently as chem lab and held
The ghost of her smell
In my clothes. Or lips
If I'd been lucky. My blood thunk
Thunk-thunked, the way a cut feels
As you bend to tie shoes. The way life
Tingles the first day it breaks loose
To crawl your skin. Dizzy,
I ran through milky sap and
Sycamore-leafed streets, mixing the smells
Of just-thawed earth with essence of girl
My blood steamed. I understood lost-at-sea as glamorous
Isolation, the way a hummingbird's movement through two
Eye blinks allows it to vanish and
Re-appear. My wings blurred hinges
Among worlds. Nothing held me. Nothing
Could catch me. I'd run this way forever.

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 David Steingass, "Youth ," from Hunt & Gather: Poems New and Selected, (Red Dragonfly Press, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of David Steingass 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.