American Life in Poetry


It pains an old booklover like me to think of somebody burning a book, but if you’ve gotten one for a quarter and it’s falling apart, well, maybe it’s OK as long as you might be planning to pick up a better copy. Here Ron Koertge, who lives in Pasadena, has some fun with the ashes of love poems.

Burning the Book

The anthology of love poems I bought

for a quarter is brittle, anyway, and comes

apart when I read it.

One at a time, I throw pages on the fire

and watch smoke make its way up

and out.

I’m almost to the index when I hear

a murmuring in the street. My neighbors

are watching it snow.

I put on my blue jacket and join them.

The children stand with their mouths


I can see nouns – longing, rapture, bliss –

land on every tongue, then disappear. 

Poem copyright 2012 by Ron Koertge. Poem reprinted by permission of the author. 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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