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Monday, March 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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American Life in Poetry: ‘His New Twin Daughters’

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

Here’s a fine poem about a loving, attentive father, by Elise Hempel, who lives in Illinois. Notice how deftly she’s placed her rhymes so that we scarcely notice them as the words flow on. Ms. Hempel’s latest book, Ache, is available from Jacar Press.

His New Twin Daughters

Even now, after all

these years, my father, 89,

still uncertain when I call

whose voice it is—Ann’s or mine—

saying Hi, Dad, and from where,

the next town or a different state,

still pausing in that powdered air,

this little silence as he waits

at the nursery door, discerning tone

and pitch, listening hard to know

which way to bend, which crib, the one

against the wall or by the window,

still concentrating, trying to keep

us separate, our needs, do what

she would, letting my mother sleep,

this moment’s blank as he’s about

to choose between us, make some shift

in the soft-lit dark, decide whose cry

it is tonight, which girl to lift,

to whisper or hum, which lullaby.

Poem copyright 2018 by Elise Hempel, “His New Twin Daughters,” from “Girl in the Clock,” (No Chair Press, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.

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