American Life in Poetry: Column 733

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

I like this poem for the way it portrays the manner in which we study the behavior of others and project our own experiences onto their lives. It's the second poem we've published by Jeanie Greensfelder, who lives in California, where she's (of course she is!) a psychologist. It's from her most recent book, I Got What I Came For, published by Penciled In, in Atascadero, California.

Taking Turns

I pass a woman on the beach.
We both wear graying hair,
feel sand between our toes,
hear surf, and see blue sky.
I came with a smile.
She came to get one.

No.  I'm wrong.

She sits on a boulder
by a cairn of stacked rocks.
Hands over her heart,
she stares out to sea.
Today's my turn to hold the joy,
hers the sorrow.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2017 by Jeanie Greensfelder, "Taking Turns ," from I Got What I Came For, (Penciled In, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Jeanie Greensfelder 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.