June 23, 2013 in Features

American Life in Poetry

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

There are many fine poems in which the poet looks deeply into a photograph and tries to touch the lives caught there. Here’s one by Tami Haaland, who lives in Montana.

Little Girl

She’s with Grandma in front

of Grandma’s house, backed

by a willow tree, gladiola and roses.

Who did she ever want

to please? But Grandma

seems half-pleased and annoyed.

No doubt Mother frowns

behind the lens, wants

to straighten this sassy face.

Maybe laughs, too.

Little girl with her mouth wide,

tongue out, yelling

at the camera. See her little

white purse full of treasure,

her white sandals?

She has things to do,

you can tell. Places to explore

beyond the frame,

and these women picking flowers

and taking pictures.

Why won’t they let her go?

“Little Girl” from “When We Wake in the Night,” by Tami Haaland, copyright 2012 WordTech Editions, Cincinnati, Ohio. Poem reprinted by permission of the author 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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