American Life in Poetry: Column 154
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006
Here, poet Yusef Komunyakaa, who teaches at New York
University, shows us a fine portrait of the hard life of
a worker--in this case, a horse--and through metaphor,
the terrible, clumsy beauty of his final moments.
When the plowblade struck
An old stump hiding under
The soil like a beggar's
Rotten tooth, they swarmed up
& Mister Jackson left the plow
Wedged like a whaler's harpoon.
The horse was midnight
Against dusk, tethered to somebody's
Pocketwatch. He shivered, but not
The way women shook their heads
Before mirrors at the five
& dime--a deeper connection
To the low field's evening star.
He stood there, in tracechains,
Lathered in froth, just
Stopped by a great, goofy
Calmness. He whinnied
Once, & then the whole
Beautiful, blue-black sky
Fell on his back.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry
Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry
magazine. It is also supporte by the Department of English
at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright
(c) 2001 by Yusef Komunyakaa, reprinted from "Pleasure
Dome: New & Collected Poems, 1975-1999," Wesleyan Univ.
Press, 2001, by permission Introduction copyright (c)
2008 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.
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