American Life in Poetry: Column 736
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
I was very sorry to read that the literary journal Field, with a long history of publishing the finest of American poetry, was ceasing publication. All good things must come to an end. Here's a poem full of mystery from the final issue. It's by Mark Irwin, who divides his time between California and Colorado, and whose most recent book is A Passion According to Green (2017).
When they entered the house, which was a very large house
the way a cloud is large, the pages of their story
seemed like cracks in the earth, a man's shirt, or a woman's
blouse, and the stranger in the house told them to make
themselves at home in the house that was not their house,
and told them to write down the three most important gifts
in each of their lives, and then continued to explain how
there were three doors in the house and at each door they must
forfeit one of these gifts, and how the real story always begins
at the third door, where each of them will pause and begin
to crawl, leaving the field of time, where now you pause,
touching the door of this page, wiping away each word, waiting to enter.
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 ©2018 by Mark Irwin, "Open," from Field, (No. 98, Spring 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Mark Irwin 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.