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American Life in Poetry: ‘Dwellers in the House of the Lord’

UPDATED: Fri., July 24, 2020

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

Maine’s former poet laureate, Wesley McNair, is one of my favorite writers. Godine has just published a touching book-length memoir, in verse, titled “Dwellers in the House of the Lord.” Though it’s impossible to convey the sweep of a poem of 63 pages, here is a short excerpt to give you some idea of the poem’s open-handed style. At this point, McNair’s sister has separated from Mike, her abusive husband, and the poet’s feelings are mixed, just as many of yours might be, or have been, in such a situation.

From ‘Dwellers in the House of the Lord’

I, too, am confused. I reach out

to the Mike who calls me

Buddy, the Navy name

for friend, and in every secret

phone call, I reach out also

to my sister, bereft and alone.

Poem copyright 2020 by Wesley McNair. From “Dwellers in the House of the Lord,” (David R. Godine, 2020). 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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