May 5, 2013 in Features

American Life in Poetry

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

If you had to divide your favorite things between yourself and somebody else, what would you keep? Patricia Clark, a Michigan poet, has it figured out.


You can have the grackle whistling blackly 

        from the feeder as it tosses seed,

if I can have the red-tailed hawk perched

        imperious as an eagle on the high branch.

You can have the brown shed, the field mice

        hiding under the mower, the wasp’s nest on the door,

if I can have the house of the dead oak,

        its hollowed center and feather-lined cave.

You can have the deck at midnight, the possum

        vacuuming the yard in its white prowl,

if I can have the yard of wild dreaming, pesky

        raccoons, and the roaming, occasional bear.

You can have the whole house, window to window,

        roof to soffits to hardwood floors,

if I can have the screened porch at dawn, 

        the Milky Way, any comets in our yard.

Poem copyright 2004 by Patricia Clark from “She Walks Into the Sea” (2009, Michigan State University Press), 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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