September 30, 2012 in Features

American Life in poetry

Ted Kooser U.S. poet laureate, 2004-2006
 

It’s the time of the year for school supplies, and here’s a poem by Daniel J. Langton about just one of the items you’ll need to pick up. Langton lives in San Francisco.

School

I was sent home the first day

with a note: Danny needs a ruler.

My father nodded, nothing seemed so apt.

School is for rules, countries need rulers,

graphs need graphing, the world is straight ahead.

It had metrics one side, inches the other.

You could see where it started

and why it stopped, a foot along,

how it ruled the flighty pen,

which petered out sideways when you dreamt.

I could have learned a lot,

understood latitude, or the border with Canada,

so stern compared to the South

and its unruly river with two names.

But that first day, meandering home, I dropped it.

Poem copyright 2011 by Daniel J. Langton. Poem reprinted from New Letters, Vol. 77, nos. 3&4, by permission of Daniel J. Langton and the publisher. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


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