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Sunday, October 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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American Life in Poetry: ‘Cradle Thief’

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

Caitlin Doyle, who lives in Ohio, writes haunting, memorable poetry about the familiar and the strange. Her poetry is a fine example of what I call strategic artistry, as if her words have been carefully held back until they burst into light at just the right moment. This sonnet, in which a young girl awakens to a world of new discoveries, originally appeared in The New Criterion.

Cradle Thief

“A cradle thief,” my mother called the man

we’d see in shops, cafes, parks, even church,

with “that poor girl” beside him. Hand in hand,

they’d walk as if they didn’t feel the scorch

of people’s stares. The day we saw him press

his lips to hers, my mother blocked my eyes

as if his mouth (I longed for my first kiss)

against her mouth was smothering her cries.

All week, I ran a fever that wouldn’t break.

“A cradle thief”—a voice I only half

knew as my own surprised me in the dark,

my sick-bed wet with shivers. “A cradle thief,”

I said again, as if the words could will

my window broken, footprint on the sill.

Poem copyright 2017 by Caitlin Doyle, from The New Criterion, (Vol. 35, no. 10, 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.

Wordcount: 238
Tags: ae, books, poetry

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