Category Archives: Poems

The Mud Room

The Mud Room

His muddy rubber boots
stood in the farmhouse mud room
while he sat in the kitchen,
unshaven, dealing solitaire.

His wife (we called her Auntie)
rolled out dough in the kitchen
for a pie, put up preserves
and tidied, clearing her throat.

They listened to the TV
at six, he with his fingers
fumbling the hearing aids,
she watching the kitchen clock.

Old age went on like that,
a vegetable patch, a horse
some neighbor kept in the barn,
the miles of grass and fences.

After he died his boots
stood muddy in the mud room
as if he’d gone in socks,
softly out to the meadow.

David Mason is the former poet laureate of Colorado and a professor of literature and writing at Colorado College. His most recent book is The Sound: New and Selected Poems, from Red Hen press.

Yard Sale

“I’m devoted to yard and garage sales, and love to spend time with friendly strangers in scuffed front yards and oily, dim garages.  Here’s a poem by Matthew Brennan, who lives in Indiana, from his 2016 Lamar University book, One Life.”

Ted Kooser, United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (2004-2006).

Yard Sale

“There is no object so foul that intense light will not make beautiful.”
—  Emerson, Nature

The renters bring out their greasy table,
End of the month again: It sags,
Weighted and warped like them, unable
To hold much more than glasses and rags.

Old clothes and rusty tools compete
For space with magazines they stole
From garbage bins behind our street;
Each shoe reveals a run-down sole.

A few come by, inspect, and leave,
Almost always with empty hands.
But when, at sundown, all things cleave
To slanted light, and when it lands

So rubber, glass, and metal glint—
And for a moment make you squint—
You’ll see our neighbors bathed in gold
As if their worth cannot be sold.

Matthew Brennan

Saving Nails

“My late friend, the poet and novelist Jim Harrison, used to tease me about the buckets of bent nails in my barn, which I planned to straighten on some rainy day but which only accumulated. Here’s a fine bent nail poem by Thomas R. Moore, from his new book Saving Nails, from Moon Pie Press. Moore lives in Maine.”   –Ted Kooser, former U.S. Poet Laureate

Saving Nails

I strip the porch roof, pick out the used
nails, and toss the shingles down onto

a drop cloth, remembering when I shingled
my grandmother’s roof fifty years ago:

the tar smell, the brackets, planks, and
ladders all the same, but level now

with hemlock limbs instead of locust.
I lug four shingles up the ladder, kneel

and drive the old nails home, slide
another shingle into place, pound,

toes bent, knees creaking. Miserliness,
a friend jokes about the nails, but I call it

caring, thinking of the man who gave
us this land on the cove, the cottage, the boat-

house full of boats. The only time I saw
him he was at his work bench, a rich

man straightening nails, moving from
the bent can to the anvil to the straight.

 

 

The Day (by Peter Everwine)

The Day

We walked at the edge of the sea, the dog,
still young then, running ahead of us.

Few people. Gulls. A flock of pelicans
circled beyond the swells, then closed
their wings and dropped head-long
into the dazzle of light and sea. You clapped
your hands; the day grew brilliant.

Later we sat at a small table
with wine and food that tasted of the sea.

A perfect day, we said to one another,
so that even when the day ended
and the lights of houses among the hills
came on like a scattering of embers,
we watched it leave without regret.

That night, easing myself toward sleep,
I thought how blindly we stumble ahead
with such hope, a light flares briefly—Ah, Happiness!
then we turn and go on our way again.

But happiness, too, goes on its way,
and years from where we were, I lie awake
in the dark and suddenly it returns—
that day by the sea, that happiness,

though it is not the same happiness,
not the same darkness.

Peter Everwine lives in California, and his most recent book is Listening Long and Late from the University of Pittsburgh Press.

 

Bees Were Better

The University of Minnesota Press has published a fine collection of bee poems, If Bees are Few. Here’s one by one of my favorite poets, Naomi Shihab Nye, who lives in San Antonio. Her most recent book is Famous from Wings Press.  —Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate 2004-2006.

Bees Were Better 

In college, people were always breaking up.
We broke up in parking lots,
beside fountains.
Two people broke up
across a table from me
at the library.
I could not sit at that table again
though I did not know them.
I studied bees, who were able
to convey messages through dancing
and could find their ways
home to their hives
even if someone put up a blockade of sheets
and boards and wire.
Bees had radar in their wings and brains
that humans could barely understand.
I wrote a paper proclaiming
their brilliance and superiority
and revised it at a small café
featuring wooden hive-shaped honey-dippers
in silver honeypots
at every table.

Enemies

by Wendell Berry

If you are not to become a monster,
you must care what they think.
If you care what they think,

how will you not hate them,
and so become a monster
of the opposite kind? From where then

is love to come—love for your enemy
that is the way of liberty?
From forgiveness. Forgiven, they go

free of you, and you of them;
they are to you as sunlight
on a green branch. You must not

think of them again, except
as monsters like yourself,
pitiable because unforgiving.

Splitting an Order

by Ted Kooser

I like to watch an old man cutting a sandwich in half,
maybe an ordinary cold roast beef on whole wheat bread,
no pickles or onion, keeping his shaky hands steady
by placing his forearms firm on the edge of the table
and using both hands, the left to hold the sandwich in place,
and the right to cut it surely, corner to corner,
observing his progress through glasses that moments before
he wiped with his napkin, and then to see him lift half
onto the extra plate that he had asked the server to bring,
and then to wait, offering the plate to his wife
while she slowly unrolls her napkin and places her spoon,
her knife and her fork in their proper places,
then smoothes the starched white napkin over her knees
and meets his eyes and holds out both old hands to him.