September 15, 2013 in Features

American Life in Poetry

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

Tracy K. Smith won the Pulitzer Prize for her book of poems, “Life on Mars,” from which I’ve selected this week’s poem, which presents a payday in the way many of us at some time have experienced it. The poet lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Good Life

When some people talk about money

They speak as if it were a mysterious lover

Who went out to buy milk and never

Came back, and it makes me nostalgic

For the years I lived on coffee and bread,

Hungry all the time, walking to work on payday

Like a woman journeying for water

From a village without a well, then living

One or two nights like everyone else

On roast chicken and red wine.

Poem copyright 2011 by Tracy K. Smith from “Life on Mars” (Graywolf Press, 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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