Ted Kooser: An American life in poetry, June 15, 2014

Ted Kooser: An American life in poetry, June 15, 2014

By Ted Kooser/U.S. Poet Laurete 2004-06

One of the wonders of poetry is a good poet's ability to compress a great deal of life into a few words. Here's a life story told small by Ivan Hobson, who lives in California.

Our Neighbor:

Every family that lived in our court

had an American truck

with a union sticker on the back

and as a kid I admired them

the way I thought our soldiers

must have admired Patton

and Sherman tanks.

You once told me

that the Russians couldn't take us,

not with towns like ours

full of iron, full of workers tempered

by the fires of foundries and mills.

It wasn't the Russians that came;

it was the contract, the strike,

the rounds of layoffs that blistered

until your number was called.

I still remember you loading up

to leave for the last time,

the union sticker scraped off

with a putty knife,

the end of the white tarp draped

over your truck bed

flapping as you drove away.

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. Poem copyright ©2013 by Ivan Hobson. Poem reprinted from Plainsongs, Vol. XXXIII, No. 3, Spring 2013, by permission of Ivan Hobson and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2014 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. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. 

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