American Life in Poetry: Column 183

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Perhaps you made paper leaves when you were in grade school.  I did.  But are our memories as richly detailed as these by Washington, D.C. poet, Judith Harris?

Gathering Leaves in Grade School

They were smooth ovals,
and some the shade of potatoes–
some had been moth-eaten
or spotted, the maples
were starched, and crackled
like campfire.

We put them under tracing paper
and rubbed our crayons
over them, X-raying
the spread of their bones
and black, veined catacombs.

We colored them green and brown
and orange, and
cut them out along the edges,
labeling them deciduous
or evergreen.

All day, in the stuffy air of the classroom, with its cockeyed globe, and nautical maps of ocean floors, I watched those leaves

lost in their own worlds
flap on the pins of the bulletin boards:
without branches or roots,
or even a sky to hold on to.

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 (c) 2007 by Judith Harris, whose most recent collection of poems is “The Bad Secret,” Louisiana State University Press, 2006. Reprinted from “The Literary Review,” Fall 2008, by permission of Judith Harris. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 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.  We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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~ by ericedits on September 25, 2008.

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