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American Life in Poetry: ‘Center Café’

By Ted Kooser U.S. poet laureate

I’ve shared with you a couple of poems from the anthology “Local News: Poetry About Small Towns” from MWPH Books in Fairwater, Wisconsin. Here’s another, by Mark Vinz, who lives in Minnesota.

Time and timelessness. We’ve all been in this café, haven’t we? His latest book of poetry is “Permanent Record.”

Center Café

Well, you’re in town, then. The boys

from the class reunion wander in

and take their places in the corner booth,

just as they might have fifty years ago –

grayer, balder, wearing hats announcing

places far away. Their conversation

rises, falls to the inevitable – a missing

friend who worked right up until the end,

another who is long past traveling. Smiles

grow distant as their silence overtakes

the room. The busy waitress pauses,

nods. She’s always known the boys.

Poem copyright 2019 by Mark Vinz, “Center Cafe,” from “Local News: Poetry About Small Towns” (MWPH Books, 2019). 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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