August 10, 2014 in Features

American Life in Poetry

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

Jonathan Greene, who lives in Kentucky, is a master of the short poem, but while he prunes them down to their essentials he never cuts out the wonder and delight. Here’s a good example from his most recent book. Can you feel the exclamation point that’s suggested at the end? You can’t see it, but it’s there.

One Light to Another

The storm

turns off

the lights.

The lightning

lights the whereabouts

of the flashlight.

The flashlight

takes us to matches

and candles, the oil lamp.

Now we’re back,


the 19th century.

 Poem copyright 2013 by Jonathan Greene, from his most recent book of poems, “Seeking Light: New & Selected Later Poems” (Broadstone Books, 2013) 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.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email