American Life in Poetry: Column 196


One of the most effective means for conveying strong emotion is to invest some real object with one's feelings, and then to let the object carry those feelings to the reader. Notice how the gloves in this short poem by Jose Angel Araguz of Oregon carry the heavy weight of the speaker's loss.


I made up a story for myself once,

That each glove I lost

Was sent to my father in prison

That's all it would take for him

To chart my growth without pictures

Without words or visits,

Only colors and design,

Texture; it was ok then

For skin to chafe and ash,

To imagine him

Trying on a glove,

Stretching it out

My open palm closing

And disappearing

In his fist.

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) 2007 by Jose Angel Araguz. Poem reprinted from "Rattle," Vol. 13, no. 2, Winter 2007, by permission of Jose Angel Araguz. 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. 



by Don Colburn


Until I heard the names in my own voice

I never saw them whole: chickweed, toothwort,

May apple, Dutchman's breeches, Indian pipe.

A list was my father's way of witnessing;

it made a flower real. And this afternoon

in the weedy meadow by the towpath,

I'm jotting odd names on a scrap of paper

for no one in particular, myself maybe

or my father. Back then I let him teach me

to look down at the ground for stars,

bells, shades of blue. He was never happier

than when we looked up accuracy's myriad names

and he wrote them out in slanted letters.

Now, over and over, like a child,

I say gill-over-the-ground, gill-

over-the-ground, gill-over-the-ground,

and in the saying see it blossom again

inside its spilled blue name.

-from As If Gravity Were a Theory (Cider Press).


by Don Colburn


Imagine a grizzly bear

with frogs in its ears and a raven

perched on its head. It helps

to have watched a great heron

at the ragged edge of the sea

before it flaps and somehow

lifts off. Or if, in the dark,

you can make out a yellow cedar

bending to the water – maybe.

Like the wind, the rain, the rings

in the treetrunk the great bear

was carved from, or a sound

you hear for the first time, so old

you know it tells more than one

story: Quawquawkeewogwah.

No use squinting at the scant

letters or sounding them out.

Listen to one who hears his name

without looking. Close your eyes.

Say what he knew by heart. 

-from As If Gravity Were a Theory (Cider Press Review)l