Ted Kooser: An American life in poetry, Dec. 8, 2013

Ted Kooser: An American life in poetry, Dec. 8, 2013

I once wrote a not-so-very-good poem called "Picking Up After the Dead," about the putting-in-order we feel compelled to do when a family member has passed on. In this poem Sherod Santos, who lives in Chicago, writes what I wished I could have written.

Out of the World There Passed a Soul

The day of my mother's funeral I spend clearing out

her overgrown flower beds, down on my knees

in the leaf rot, nut shells, tiny grains of sandlot sand

spilling from the runoff gullies. The hot work was to see

not feel what had to be done, not to go on asking,

not to wonder anymore. Full from scraps I'd found

at the back of the refrigerator, her mongrel dog

lay curled on a stone and watched me work.

It was Sunday. The telephone rang, then stopped,

then rang again. By the end of the day, I'd done

what I could. I swept the walk, put away the tools,

switched on the indoor safety lamps, and then

(it hardly matters what I think I felt) I closed

the gate on a house where no one lived anymore.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (http://www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It also is supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 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. Poem copyright 2012 by Santos, whose most recent book of poems is "The Intricated Soul: New and Selected Poems" (W. W. Norton & Co., 2010).

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