American Life in Poetry: Column 307
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006
I like this poem by 97-year-old Lois Beebe Hayna of Colorado for the way it captures restrained speech. The speaker spends most of her words in describing a season, but behind the changes of spring another significant change is suggested.
For part of one strange year we lived
in a small house at the edge of a wood.
No neighbors, which suited us. Nobody
to ask questions. Except
for the one big question we went on
myriads of birds stopped over
briefly. Birds we’d never seen before, drawn
to our leafy quiet and our brook and because,
as we later learned, the place lay beneath
a flyway. Flocks appeared overnight—birds
brilliant or dull, with sharp beaks
or crossed bills, birds small
and enormous, all of them pausing
to gorge at the feeder, to rest their wings,
and disappear. Each flock seemed surer than we
of a destination. By the time we’d watched them
wing north in spring, then make
an anxious autumn return,
we too had pulled it together and we too moved
into what seemed to be our lives.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Lois Beebe Hayna, whose most recent book of poems is Keeping Still, Higganum Hill Books, 2005. Poem reprinted from The Greensboro Review, No. 86, Fall 2009, by permission of Lois Beebe Hayna and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 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.