American Life in Poetry: Column 800

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Maine’s former poet laureate, Wesley McNair, is one of my favorite writers. Godine has just published a touching book-length memoir, in verse, entitled Dwellers in the House of the Lord. Though it’s impossible to convey the sweep of a poem of 63 pages, here is a short excerpt to give you some idea of the poem’s open-handed style. At this point McNair’s sister has separated from Mike, her abusive husband, and the poet’s feelings are mixed, just as many of yours might be, or have been, in such a situation.

from Dwellers in the House of the Lord

I, too, am confused. I reach out
to the Mike who calls me
Buddy, the Navy name
for friend, and in every secret
phone call, I reach out also
to my sister, bereft and alone.

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. From Dwellers in the House of the Lord, (David R. Godine, 2020). Poem copyright ©2020 by Wesley McNair. Reprinted with the permission of David R. Godine, 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.