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Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008 12:55 pm

People's poetry

Jacqueline Jackson presents

sangamonpoem #1

we picnicked by a roaring mountain
brook icy water seething around
gargantuan rocks to let the kids see
some wild vermont swim in the back-
water pools campers were picnicking
nearby I asked a young counselor
where's your camp? he gestured behind
him up in the green mountains what's
it called? sangamon I did a double take
spell that? he did sangamon I laughed
said I live in sangamon county on the
sangamon river but it's in illinois
well he said they didn't want to call
it camp lincoln I recalled only then
this brook runs through lincoln notch
below lincoln peak townships are towns
in new england and the town of lincoln
contains lincoln and west lincoln and
south lincoln camp lincoln would be
overkill the founders must have thought
you're not from vermont I said knowing
his answer london I'm here on vacation
earning my way by working at camp
sangamon home is all over I tell my kids

© Jacqueline Jackson 2008

American life in poetry

Edited by Ted Kooser

Hearts and flowers, that's how some people dismiss poetry, suggesting that's all there is to it, just a bunch of sappy poets weeping over love and beauty. Well, poetry is lots more than that. At times it's a means of honoring the simple things about us. To illustrate the care with which one poet observes a flower, here's Frank Steele, of Kentucky, paying such close attention to a sunflower that he almost gets inside it.


You're expected to see

only the top, where sky

scrambles bloom, and not

the spindly leg, hairy, fending off

tall, green darkness beneath.

Like every flower, she has a little

theory, and what she thinks

is up. I imagine the long

climb out of the dark

beyond morning glories, day lilies, four o'clocks

up there to the dream she keeps

lifting, where it's noon all day.

Poem copyright © 2001 by Frank Steele. Reprinted from Singing into That Fresh Light (Blue Sofa Press, 2001). 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 2004-2006. For more information, go to www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

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