May 26, 2013 in Features

American Life in Poetry

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

Laura Dimmit is from Joplin, Mo., and her family survived the fierce tornado of May 2011. The entire area was strewn with debris, and here’s a poem about just one little piece that fell from the sky.

School photo, found after the Joplin tornado

                                             “Joey, 4th grade, 1992”

He’s been on the fridge since it happened,

sneaking glances from underneath the cat

magnet at our dinners, coffee habits, arguments.

We posted him on the database of items found,

hoping that someone would recognize his messy

hair, Batman t-shirt, blue eyes, but no one

answered the post or claimed him.

Somewhere a childhood photo album is not

quite complete, or a grandmother’s mantelpiece;

an uncle’s wallet. One afternoon I got restless,

flipped through my old yearbooks, trying to find him,

looking to see how he might have aged: did he lose

the chubby cheeks? dye his hair? how long

did he have to wear braces? But he’s too young

to have passed me in the halls, the picture just

a stranger, a small reminder of the whirling aftermath

when Joplin was clutching at scraps: everything displaced,

even this poor kid who doesn’t even know he’s lost.

Poem copyright 2012 by Laura Dimmit, 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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