American Life in Poetry: Column 738

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Ibbetson Street is a journal that comes out twice a year and does a fine job selecting its poems. I like this one by Kenneth Lee, a gynecological pathologist in Boston, whose most recent book is Gravity Waves. TV commercial producers have learned that it's effective to put a dog in with the people, and here we have dogs and their friends in a poem. And this week you get a new word, "aliquot," to go with your coffee. His most recent book is Opening the Camp.

Symbiosis

I sit with my thermos of coffee on the mall:
a mile-long promenade, arcades of elms
flanking a generous aliquot of benches.
 
But at this early hour it starts to dawn:
I am the only one without a dog.
So, a witness to an ancient symbiosis,
as it's evolved within a modern city:
 
The dogs, I note, are smaller, the owners
less ferocious. The former sniff then poop,
the latter, like potty-training parents, pat their heads,
gather it in plastic doggy-bags.
 
It's no longer for the hunt or for protection;
both species have adapted to survive
hard loneliness inside a small apartment.
 


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 Kenneth Lee, "Symbiosis," from Ibbetson Street, (No. 42, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Kenneth Lee 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.