American Life in Poetry: Column 608

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BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

It’s high time that a column about American life can at last offer a poem about romance fiction. Most of us poets are lucky to have a few hundred readers for our books, and that’s only a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of devoted followers of bodice-rippers. Here’s a poem by Marilyn L. Taylor, who lives in Wisconsin, that offers an explanation.

Aunt Eudora’s Harlequin Romance

She turns the bedlamp on. The book falls open
in her mottled hands, and while she reads
her mouth begins to quiver, forming words
like Breathless. Promises. Elope.
As she turns the leaves, Eudora’s cheek
takes on a bit of bloom. Her frowzy hair
thickens and turns gold, her dim eyes clear,
the wattles vanish from her slender neck.
Her waist, emerging from its ring of flesh,
bends to the side. Breasts that used to hang
like pockets rise and ripen; her long legs
tremble. Her eyes close, she holds her breath—
the steamy pages flutter by, unread,
as lover after lover finds her bed.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2015 by Marilyn L. Taylor, “Aunt Eudora’s Harlequin Romance,” from Third Wednesday, (Vol. IX, No. 1, 2015/2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Marilyn L. Taylor and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2016 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Note: this was apparently published in the papers a couple of weeks ago (I usually reprint the columns on Sundays, but I think they put last week’s up early on the website so I missed the one for the week before.  Glad I caught it…Marilyn Taylor is an excellent poet. -TAA)

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