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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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American Life in Poetry: ‘Happiness’

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

One of my many peculiarities is a fascination with deserted places, especially old houses, and I’ve written far too many poems about them. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love it when others take on their own depictions. This poem by Richard Jarrette, a Californian, takes on not only the description of an old house, but what might have happened there and what might happen anywhere. It’s from his book “The Beatitudes of Ekaterina,” from Green Writers Press of Brattleboro, Vermont.


Abandoned house roofless three walls

no floor a ruin if you think house

to brown towhees a place to scratch

in the leaves for bugs and worms,

for the male to sing a territorial song

from what remains of the chimney—

an imagination problem like the time

friends said we must be very happy

in the beautiful house we built because

they couldn’t see the ruins inside us.

Poem copyright 2017 by Richard Jarrette, “Happiness,” from “The Beatitudes of Ekaterina,” (Green Writers Press, 2017). 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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