May 12, 2013 in Features

American Life in Poetry

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

It’s a difficult task to accurately imagine one’s self back into childhood. Maybe we can get the physical details right, but it’s very hard to recapture the innocence and wonder. Maureen Ash, who lives in Wisconsin, gets it right in this poem.

Church Basement

The church knelt heavy

above us as we attended Sunday School,

circled by age group and hunkered

on little wood folding chairs

where we gave our nickels, said

our verses, heard the stories, sang

the solid, swinging songs.

It could have been God above

in the pews, His restless love sifting

with dust from the joists. We little

seeds swelled in the stone cellar, bursting

to grow toward the light.

Maybe it was that I liked how, upstairs, outside,

an avid sun stormed down, burning the sharp-

edged shadows back to their buildings, or

how the winter air knifed

after the dreamy basement.

Maybe the day we learned whatever

would have kept me believing

I was just watching light

poke from the high, small window

and tilt to the floor where I could make it

a gold strap on my shoe, wrap

my ankle, embrace

any part of me.

Poem copyright 2012 by Maureen Ash and reprinted by permission of the author. 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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