American Life in Poetry: Column 155


The American poet Elizabeth Bishop often wrote of how places--
both familiar and foreign--looked, how they seemed. Here
Marianne Boruch of Indiana begins her poem in this way,
too, in a space familiar to us all but made new--made strange--by
close observation.


t seems so--
I don't know. It seems
as if the end of the world
has never happened in here.
No smoke, no
dizzy flaring except
those candles you can light
in the chapel for a quarter.
They last maybe an hour
before burning out.

And in this room
where we wait, I see
them pass, the surgical folk--
nurses, doctors, the guy who hangs up
the blood drop--ready for lunch,
their scrubs still starched into wrinkles,
a cheerful green or pale blue,
and the end of a joke, something
about a man who thought he could be--
what? I lose it
in their brief laughter.

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 (c) 2006
by Marianne Boruch, whose most recent book of poetry is
"Grace, Fallen from," Wesleyan University Press, 2008. Poem
reprinted from "TriQuarterly," Issue 126, by permission of
Marianne Boruch. 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. We do not accept
unsolicited manuscripts.