American Life in Poetry: Column 774


This is the sixth of Marge Saiser's poems to appear in my column, and I've written elsewhere how much I admire her work. This poem is typical of her clear, accessible poetry of close observation. I am especially taken by her capture of the flash of overhead light in the passing car. Marvelous. This poem is from her recent book, Learning to Swim, from Stephen F. Austin State University Press. Saiser lives in Nebraska in the warm months and Arizona in the cold.

I Save My Love

I save my love for what is close,
for the dog's eyes, the depths of brown
when I take a wet cloth to them
to wash his face. I save my love
for the smell of coffee at The Mill,
the roasted near-burn of it, especially
the remnant that stays later
in the fibers of my coat. I save my love
for what stays. The white puff
my breath makes when I stand
at night on my doorstep.
That mist doesn't last, evaporates
like your car turning the corner,
you at the wheel, waving.
Your hand a quick tremble in a
brief illumination. Palm and fingers.
Your face toward me. You had
turned on the over-head light so I would
see you for an instant, see you waving,
see you gone.

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 ©2019 by Marjorie Saiser, "I Save My Love," from Learning to Swim, (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Marjorie Saiser and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2020 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.