American Life in Poetry: Column 786

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

How many poets does it take to change a light bulb? Only one. Here’s a poem by Jaret Carter from his new book, The Land Itself, from Monongahela Press. This is a fine example of how a talented poet can make a gift for us from the most ordinary subject. Carter lives in Indianapolis. His Darkened Rooms of Summer: New and Selected Poems, is published by the University of Nebraska Press in a series I edit for them.

Changing the Front Porch Light for Thanksgiving

To balance there, again, in the early dark,
three rungs up on the old stepladder,
afraid to go any higher, it wobbles so—
to reach out and find the first set-screw
stripped of its thread, barely holding the lip
in place—to stretch even farther, twisting
the next one to break the rust, turning
the last with the tips of your fingers until
the white globe drops down smooth and round
in your hands, and you see inside a pool
of intermingled wings and bodies, so dry
it stirs beneath your breath. To watch them
flutter, again, across the grass, when you
climb down and shake them out in the wind.


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 ©2019 by Jared Carter, "Changing the Front Porch Light for Thanksgiving," from The Land Itself, (Monongahela Press, 2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Jared Carter 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.