Five Poems by Ted Kooser

Five Poems by Ted Kooser

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Monarch Butterfly

For a creature with stained glass windows
for wings, she’s wonderfully light on her feet,
prancing from blossom to blossom in toe shoes,
rehearsing, we’re told, for a debut appearance
in Mexico. But how can that be possible, 
when this one has taken an entire afternoon
just to make it from one end of the garden
thirty feet to the other, flouncing along,
touching each leaf that she wants to remember?



Iron Bridges

It was very hard for those old bridges
to step over even a little stream
in all that heavy armor, and this while
leading a day by its reins, so some just
shucked it right there, leaving one boot
planted in mud and willows on each side,
and rode on, lightly, naked as a cloud.




Stopped at a traffic light, I watched an old man
cross before me. He was small, with a beak
of a nose and ears like little fielder’s gloves
reaching to catch the high fly balls of sound
that dropped all around him. Like an old hen
with little left of herself but dirty feathers
and deliberation, he studied the pavement,
placing each foot on a spot he’d selected
and looking ahead toward the next, though
I could tell he might at any moment squawk
and jump, flapping ahead with a ruckus.

And then I recognized he looked so much
like me that it seemed I was now passing
in front of myself, dawdling along, a man
in the way of the rest of the world, noticing
bits of glass shining in asphalt, thinking of
lost people I loved, all the while feeling
the heat of impatience pour out through a grille
stuck all over with flotsam washed down
out of a hurry: a moth with one wing lifted,
a junebug like a drop of tar, and a katydid
green as a spring leaf but dead to the future.



Night Drive

Ten seconds ahead, a red reflector
on a fence post turns and looks back,
and, seeing our headlights, skips into

the weeds on the shoulder. It’s never in
much of a hurry but it sees that we are,
and lifts a glowing mitten as we pass.



Farmyard Light 

For Don Williams

This one’s been fixed to the top of a pole
poked into the center of everything,
and it looks like a stick with a puff of
yellow cotton candy light spun round it
through which a few bats flit so expertly
that none of the light gets stuck to their
hunger. The barn and grain bins, though,
have got it all over their homely faces
and a single strand drapes from the pole
to the house. Out at the edge of all this,
a deaf old shed leans in, turning the ear
of a broken window as if trying to hear
the music of the whirling carousel on which
a frightened moth rides round and round.




Ted KooserTed Kooser’s most recent book is Kindest Regards: New and Selected Poems, from Copper Canyon Press. His fourth children’s book, Mr. Posey’s New Glasses, is due out from Candlewick Press on Kooser’s 80th birthday in April.
Header photo by John A. Anderson, courtesy Shutterstock.

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