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American Life in Poetry

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

This touching poem by Dan Gerber, who lives in California, captures the memory of a father’s advice, but beneath the practical surface of that advice we can sense a great deal of emotion, which shows through a little crack at the moment the father clears his voice before continuing.

Advice

You know how, after it rains,

my father told me one August afternoon

when I struggled with something

hurtful my best friend had said,

how worms come out and

crawl all over the sidewalk

and it stays a big mess

a long time after it’s over

if you step on them?

Leave them alone,

he went on to say,

after clearing his throat,

and when the rain stops,

they crawl back into the ground.

Poem copyright 2012 by Dan Gerber from “Sailing Through Cassiopeia” (Copper Canyon 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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