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Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007 06:23 pm

People's Poetry

Jacqueline Jackson presents

Untitled Document milkbusiness poem #1

mrs george downey   
of 347 hinsdale street
quit taking milk when
my grandfather raised
the price from five
to five and one quarter
cents she said I will never
pay more than a nickel
for a quart of milk

© Jacqueline Jackson 2007

You’ve surely heard it said that the old ought to move over to make room for the young. But in the best of all possible worlds, people who love their work should be able to do it as long as they wish. Those forced to retire, well, they’re a sorry lot. Here the Chicago poet, Deborah Cummins, shows a man trying to adjust to life after work.

At a Certain Age
He sits beside his wife who takes the wheel. Clutching coupons, he wanders the aisles of Stop & Save. There’s no place he must be, no clock to punch. Sure, there are bass in the lake, a balsa model in the garage, the par-three back nine. But it’s not the same. Time the enemy then, the enemy now.
As he points the remote at the screen or pauses at the window, staring into the neighbor’s fence but not really seeing it, he listens to his wife in the kitchen, more amazed than ever — how women seem to know what to do. How, with their cycles and timers, their rolling boils and three-minute eggs, they wait for something to start. Or stop.

Poem copyright © 2007 by Deborah Cummins, and reprinted by permission of the author. Deborah Cummins’ most recent book of poetry is Counting the Waves (WordTech Communications, 2007). American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Ted Kooser served as the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2004-2006. For more information, go to www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.
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