American Life in Poetry: Column 747


If you've ever been released at last from a lengthy illness you know that the world can look different, strangely illuminated. Here's a poem about that kind of awakening by Judith Harris, who lives in Washington, D.C. Her most recent book is Night Garden from Tiger Bark Press.

April, After Six Months in the Hospital

In the bedroom,
I notice youve stacked
my things into piles,
clusters of everyday items:
my grandmothers costume beads,
spare reading glasses,
prescription bottles
that have long expired.
It is getting dark.
Through the window,
the moon shades in its marble.
And another woman
appears in my mirror,
this one too heavy,
the other, too old, to be me.
Now, I run my fingers
over a layer of dust on the tabletop
where, in my absence,
youve gathered my poems,
early drafts without
beginnings or endings,
while in the backyard,
the cherry blossoms bloom,
and black-capped chickadees
sate at the feeder,
the garden still waiting
for whatever might come.

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 Judith Harris, “April, After Six Months in the Hospital.” Poem reprinted by permission of Judith Harris. 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.