American Life in Poetry: Column 760

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

One of poetry's most important tools is sensory imagery, and the following poem, by Christie Towers of Massachusetts, brings in pleasurable smells, tastes, and sounds to evoke a rich experience starting with what? Just a bowl of water. This poem was a semi-finalist for the 2018 Pablo Neruda Prize from Nimrod International Journal.

Sugar Water in Winter

A bowl of rose water dreams itself empty
on the radiator: It's December and we can
hardly afford the heat, our milk money
crinkling hungry over the cold counter
of our convenience store, the very last
of our cash for creamer, for pleasantries,
for cheap tea and cigarettes, for the barely-
there scent of roses burning softly. We trade
our hungers for hearth, for the clank and hiss
of warmth. Small fires, these, but even we,
in our clamorous poverty, demand pleasure:
steal sugar, our neighbor's flowers, and never,
ever are caught thankless in better weather.


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 Christie Towers, "Sugar Water in Winter," from Nimrod International Journal, (Vol. 62, No. 1, Fall/Winter 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Christie Towers 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.