Ted Kooser: An American Life in Poetry, March 19, 2017
By TED KOOSER
U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-06
Nearly all of us have a story about once brushing up against somebody famous. On their honeymoon, my father and mother went to New York City, where they rode up in a hotel elevator with the famous striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. My father talked about those heady few moments for the rest of his life. Here's Carol V. Davis of Los Angeles, pitching horseshoes with an admiral. This poem is from her most recent book, "Because I Cannot Leave This Body," from Truman State University Press.
Every day in summer I'd cross the border;
he'd nod, pick up the horseshoes,
hand me one, triple the size
of my palm, and say, You first. We'd play
away the afternoon. Few words
punctuated the clank of horseshoe
against stake, until the fog rolled in
and I'd retrace my steps home.
I was five or six; he, white haired,
however old that meant.
One evening my father sat me down,
spoke in the exaggerated tone
adults adapt for children, asked
if I knew who he was.
Admiral Nimitz, of course, though
I knew nothing of his command
of the Pacific Fleet and was less impressed
than if he'd landed a horseshoe.
He was a calm man, a useful attribute
for sending young men to their deaths.
The only time I saw him upset,
raccoons had invaded from their hideouts
in the hills, attacked the goldfish in his pond,
leaving muddy footprints as they escaped.
As far as I knew, this was his only defeat.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It also is supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem, copyright 2016, reprinted by permission of Davis and the publisher. Poem first appeared in Atlanta Review (Vol. XXII, No. 2, Spring/Summer 2016). Introduction copyright 2017 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Kooser, served as U.S. poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.