American Life in Poetry: Column 617

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BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Those of you who’ve returned home to visit parents may recognize the way the familiar and the strange wash together in this wise and peaceful poem by Robert Tremmel. The poet is from Iowa and his most recent book is There is a Naked Man, (Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2010).

All the Questions

When you step through
the back door
into the kitchen
father is still
sitting at the table
with a newspaper
folded open
in front of him
and pen raised, working
the crossword puzzle.

In the living room
mother is sleeping
her peaceful sleep
at last, in a purple
robe, with her head
back, slippered feet
up and twisted
knuckle hands crossed
right over left
in her lap.

Through the south window
in your old room
you see leaves
on the giant ash tree
turning yellow again
in setting sun
and falling slowly
to the ground and one
by one all the questions
you ever had become clear.

Number one across:
a four-letter word
for no longer.

Number one down:
an eleven letter word
for gone.


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. Introduction copyright © 2017 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.

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