Ted Kooser: An American life in poetry, Dec. 29, 2013

Ted Kooser: An American life in poetry, Dec. 29, 2013

Here's a vivid portrayal of one of those school events to which parents are summoned and to which they go both dutifully and with love. The poet, Maryann Corbett, lives in St. Paul, Minn.

Holiday Concert

Forgive us. We have dragged them into the night

in taffeta dresses, in stiff collars and ties,

with the wind damp, the sleet raking their cheeks,

to school lunchrooms fitted with makeshift stages

where we will sit under bad fluorescent lighting

on folding chairs, and they will sing and play.

We will watch the first grader with little cymbals,

bending her knees, hunched in concentration

while neighbors snicker at her ardent face.

Forgive us. We will hear the seventh-grade boy

as his voice finally loses its innocence

forever, at the unbearable solo moment

and know that now, for years, he will wince at the thought

of singing, yet will ache to sing, in silence,

silence even to the generation to come

with its night, its sleet, its hideous lunchroom chairs.

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 2013 by Maryann Corbett, from her most recent book of poems, "Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter" (Able Muse Press, 2013). Poem reprinted by permission of Corbett and the publisher. 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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