December 29, 2013 in Features

American Life in Poetry

Ted Kooser U.S. poet laureate, 2004-06

Here’s a vivid portrayal of one of those school events to which parents are summoned and to which they go both dutifully and with love. The poet, Maryann Corbett, lives in St. Paul, Minn.

Holiday Concert

Forgive us. We have dragged them into the night

in taffeta dresses, in stiff collars and ties,

with the wind damp, the sleet raking their cheeks,

to school lunchrooms fitted with makeshift stages

where we will sit under bad fluorescent lighting

on folding chairs, and they will sing and play.

We will watch the first grader with little cymbals,

bending her knees, hunched in concentration

while neighbors snicker at her ardent face.

Forgive us. We will hear the seventh-grade boy

as his voice finally loses its innocence

forever, at the unbearable solo moment

and know that now, for years, he will wince at the thought

of singing, yet will ache to sing, in silence,

silence even to the generation to come

with its night, its sleet, its hideous lunchroom chairs.

Poem copyright 2013 by Maryann Corbett, from ”Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter” (Able Muse Press, 2013) and reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. American Life in Poetry is supported by The Poetry Foundation and the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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