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Thursday, August 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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American Life in Poetry: ‘Taking Turns’

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

I like this poem for the way it portrays the manner in which we study the behavior of others and project our own experiences onto their lives. It’s the second poem we’ve published by Jeanie Greensfelder, who lives in California, where she’s (of course she is!) a psychologist. It’s from her most recent book, “I Got What I Came For,” published by Penciled In, in Atascadero, California.

Taking Turns

I pass a woman on the beach.

We both wear graying hair,

feel sand between our toes,

hear surf, and see blue sky.

I came with a smile.

She came to get one.

No. I’m wrong.

She sits on a boulder

by a cairn of stacked rocks.

Hands over her heart,

she stares out to sea.

Today’s my turn to hold the joy,

hers the sorrow.

Poem copyright 2017 by Jeanie Greensfelder from “I Got What I Came For” (Penciled In, 2017), and reprinted by permission of the author and the 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 submissions.

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