American Life in Poetry: Column 717


Ryler Dustin of Bellingham, Washington, is a graduate student in our creative writing program at The University of Nebraska, and this lovely poem is from the manuscript of a book for which he's hoping to find a publisher.

To Make Color

Every morning, my grandmother cleaned the Fischer stove
in the back of the trailer, lifted ash in a shovel, careful
not to spill the white-gray dust. Precious, she said, her breath
smoking in the cold. Precious in winter's first lavender
not-quite-light—and you could smell it, the faintest acrid hint
of ash, a crispness calling you from bed. You could watch her
cap it in a chicory coffee can to stack among others, back bent
from a long-gone fever. For the garden in spring, she said.

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 ©2018 by Ryler Dustin, "To Make Color." Poem reprinted by permission of Ryler Dustin. Introduction copyright © 2020 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.