October 13, 2013 in Features

American Life in Poetry

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

Anyone who has followed this column since its introduction in 2005 knows how much I like poems that describe places. Here’s one by Joseph Hutchison, who lives in Colorado. This is the kind of scene that Edward Hopper might have painted. I especially love the way Hutchison captures the buzz of the neon sign.


Near Butte, Montana

A crazed sizzle of blazing bees

in the word EAT. Beyond it,

thousands of stars have faded

like deserted flowers in the thin

light washing up in the distance,

flooding the snowy mountains

bluff by bluff. Moments later,

the sign blinks, winks dark,

and a white-aproned cook –

surfacing in the murky sheen

of the window – leans awhile

like a cut lily … staring out

into the famished blankness

he knows he must go home to.

Poem copyright 2012 by Joseph Hutchison from “Thread of the Real,” (Conundrum Press, 2012) 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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