October 6, 2013 in Features

American Life in Poetry

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

Sit for an hour in any national airport and you’ll see how each of us differs from others in a million ways, and of course that includes not only our physical appearances but our perceptions and opinions. Here’s a poem by Ada Limón, who lives in Kentucky, about difference and the difficulty of resolution.

What It Looks Like To Us and the Words We Use

All these great barns out here in the outskirts,

black creosote boards knee-deep in the bluegrass.

They look so beautifully abandoned, even in use.

You say they look like arks after the sea’s

dried up, I say they look like pirate ships,

and I think of that walk in the valley where

J said, You don’t believe in God? And I said,

No. I believe in this connection we all have

to nature, to each other, to the universe.

And she said, Yeah, God. And how we stood there,

low beasts among the white oaks, Spanish moss,

and spider webs, obsidian shards stuck in our pockets,

woodpecker flurry, and I refused to call it so.

So instead, we looked up at the unruly sky,

its clouds in simple animal shapes we could name

though we knew they were really just clouds —

disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.

Poem copyright 2012 by Ada Limón from Poecology, Issue 1, 2011, 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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