American Life in Poetry: Column 405


When we began this column in 2005, I determined not to include any of my own poems because I wanted to introduce our readers to the work of as many of the other American poets as I could. But from time to time someone has requested that I publish one of my own. So here’s a seasonal poem, for those who’ve asked.

Christmas Mail

Cards in each mailbox,
angel, manger, star and lamb,
as the rural carrier,
driving the snowy roads,
hears from her bundles
the plaintive bleating of sheep,
the shuffle of sandals,
the clopping of camels.
At stop after stop,
she opens the little tin door
and places deep in the shadows
the shepherds and wise men,
the donkeys lank and weary,
the cow who chews and muses.
And from her Styrofoam cup,
white as a star and perched
on the dashboard, leading her
ever into the distance,
there is a hint of hazelnut,
and then a touch of myrrh.

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 ©2012 by Ted Kooser, whose most recent book of poems is Together, Brooding Heron Press, 2012. Poem reprinted by permission of Ted Kooser. Introduction copyright © 2012 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 Peggy Trojan                                                                                                                                   


I held my father’s hands
while he died.
Extra-large-glove-sized hands.
By the thumb, wide faded reminder
of the axe at seventeen.
Crooked finger, broken by the mower.
Myriad silver scars.
Calluses softened now.
Fingers that routinely hit
two computer keys,
drummed the table when impatient,
or bored.
Knuckles aged bony,
veins dark and visible.
At ninety-eight, the vellum skin
Hands that skinned deer, built houses,
crimped pie crust. 

We waited,
his firm grasp warm in mine.
When a thousand stars exploded,
he squinted hard,
and let me go.

-originally published in Verse and Vision 2012.