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Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008 01:58 pm

People's Poetry

Jacqueline Jackson presents

Untitled Document northfifthstreet poem #4   

he wasn’t walking at midnight it was daylight though lowering for a sudden downpour caused him to step inside the foyer of the house dr janes was building for his daughter kitty-corner from the governor’s manse where abe’s brother-in-law lived he chatted with the workmen looked around the sort of thing he’d do then departed the men remembered when he went on to the white house this story has come down through the few owners nannie fain lived here from 1917 told me in 1970 too bad he didn’t carve his name on the newel post I’d be in no danger from school or medical districts sometimes I stand in my hallway say hello ask his thoughts on family on the state of the union share mine with him  

© Jacqueline Jackson 2008I
’ve written about the pleasures of poetry that offers us vivid scenes but lets us draw our own conclusions about the implications of what we’re being shown. The poet can steer us a little by the selection of details, but a lot of the effect of the poem is in what is not said, in what we deduce. Lee McCarthy is a California poet, and here is something seen from across the street, something quite ordinary yet packed with life.

Santa Paula
There’s a woman kissing a cowboy across the street. His eight-year-old son watches from the bus stop bench. She’s really planting one on him, his Stetson in danger. It must have been some weekend. Seeing no room in that embrace for himself, the boy measures his future, legs straight out in front of him. Both hands hold onto a suitcase handle, thin arms ready to prove themselves.

Poem copyright © 1992 by Lee McCarthy, whose most recent book of poetry is Good Girl (Story Line Press, 2002). Reprinted from Combing Hair with a Seashell by Lee McCarthy (Ion Books, 1992). 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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