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Wednesday, May 7, 2008 11:17 am

People's Poetry

Jacqueline Jackson presents

Untitled Document farmer’sdiary poem  #1    

may 11 1949
this morning I
stumbled on a
meadow lark nest
with six eggs and
two cowbird eggs
therein

may 14 1949
checked my
meadow lark
nest a cow has
stepped on it
sic transit
gloria mundi

© Jacqueline Jackson 2008


I may be a little sappy, but I think that almost everyone is doing the best he or she can, despite all sorts of obstacles. This poem by Jonathan Holden introduces us to a young car salesman, who is trying hard, perhaps too hard. Holden is the past poet laureate of Kansas and poet in residence at Kansas State University in Manhattan.

Car Showroom
Day after day, along with his placid automobiles, that well-groomed sallow young man had been waiting for me, as in the cheerful, unchanging weather of a billboard — pacing the tiles, patting his tie, knotting, un- knotting the facade of his smile while staring out the window. He was so bad at the job he reminded me of myself the summer I failed at selling Time and Life in New Jersey. Even though I was a boy I could feel someone else’s voice crawl out of my mouth, spoiling every word, like this cowed, polite kid in his tie and badge that said Greg, saying Ma’am to my wife, calling me Sir, retailing the air with such piety I had to find anything out the window. Maybe the rain. It was gray and as honestly wet as ever. Something we could both believe.

Poem copyright © 1985 by Jonathan Holden, whose most recent book of poetry is Knowing: New & Selected Poems (University of Arkansas Press, 2000). Reprinted from The Names of the Rapids (The University of Massachusetts Press, 1985). First printed in Black Warrior Review. 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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