American Life in Poetry: Column 052


What a marvelous gift is the imagination, and each of us
gets one at birth, free of charge and ready to start up,
get on, and ride away. Can there be anything quite so
homely and ordinary as a steam radiator? And yet, here,
Connie Wanek
, of Duluth, Minnesota, nudges one into play.


Mittens are drying on the radiator,
boots nearby, one on its side.
Like some monstrous segmented insect
the radiator elongates under the window.

Or it is a beast with many shoulders
domesticated in the Ice Age.
How many years it takes
to move from room to room!

Some cage their radiators
but this is unnecessary
as they have little desire to escape.

Like turtles they are quite self-contained.
If they seem sad, it is only the same sadness
we all feel, unlovely, growing slowly cold.

Reprinted from "Bonfire," New Rivers Press, 1997,
by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 1997 by
Connie Wanek. Her most recent book is "Hartley Field,"
from Holy Cow! Press. This weekly column is supported
by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and
the Department of English at the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.