Ted Kooser: American life in poetry May 12, 2013

Ted Kooser: American life in poetry May 12, 2013

It's a difficult task to accurately imagine one's self back into childhood. Maybe we can get the physical details right, but it's very hard to recapture the innocence and wonder. Maureen Ash, who lives in Wisconsin, gets it right in this poem.

Church Basement

The church knelt heavy

above us as we attended Sunday School,

circled by age group and hunkered

on little wood folding chairs

where we gave our nickels, said

our verses, heard the stories, sang

the solid, swinging songs.

It could have been God above

in the pews, His restless love sifting

with dust from the joists. We little

seeds swelled in the stone cellar, bursting

to grow toward the light.

Maybe it was that I liked how, upstairs, outside,

an avid sun stormed down, burning the sharp-

edged shadows back to their buildings, or

how the winter air knifed

after the dreamy basement.

Maybe the day we learned whatever

would have kept me believing

I was just watching light

poke from the high, small window

and tilt to the floor where I could make it

a gold strap on my shoe, wrap

my ankle, embrace

any part of me.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (http://www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 2012 by Maureen Ash and reprinted with her permission. Introduction copyright 2013 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 to '06. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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