American Life in Poetry: Column 753

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

I once wrote of Marge Saiser's poetry that she writes better poems about love than anyone I know. In this poem the love is standing off to the side, looking on, but it's there.Marge Saiser lives in Nebraska, and her most recent book of poetry is The Woman in the Moon (The Backwaters Press, 2018).

He Taught Me to Drive

The road wasn't a proper road; it was
two ruts across a pasture and down
into a dry creek bed and up
 
the other side, a cow path really,
soft sand up to the hub caps.
You didn't gun it at the right time,
 
he said. I knew that before he
said it, but I didn't know how to get
the old Chevrolet out of the crevice
 
I had wedged it into. You'll figure it out,
he said, and then he took a walk,
left me to my own devices, which until
 
that moment had included tears.
My face remained nearly dry,
as was the gas tank when he finally
 
returned, took a shovel out of the trunk,
and moved enough sand from around
the rear tires so he could rock
 
back and forth and get a little traction.
That country had very little traction;
it had mourning doves, which lay their eggs
 
on the ground, a few twigs for a nest,
no fluff. Mourning dove. Even the name
sounds soft. Even the notes they coo,
 
perched on a fence wire. But they are
hatched on the dirt. When they leave the shell,
the wind is already blowing their feathers dry.


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 Marjorie Saiser, "He Taught Me to Drive," from Bosque, (Issue 8, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Marjorie Saiser 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.