There is a kind of light, thin snow that the wind can’t pick back up once it has put it down and given it a kick, and let it unroll across the lawn, at least a puffy wind like this one can’t, unable to bend down far enough to get its fingers under an edge (a fringed edge on this morning’s carpet) to straighten it a little, although it’s making quite a show of trying, sensing that someone may be watching from a nearby window where, indeed, somebody is.
I saw a raindrop, once, on the hood of a car in a used car dealership, just that one shining drop, but it had everything around it in it, all of the other cars and pickups, every red, yellow and blue plastic pennant flapping above it, a row of newly planted saplings standing in line by the highway with bandaged trunks and saggy guy-wires, the whining traffic and the sky overhead that was looking more and more like rain, four or five swallows darting within it. One drop of rain had taken in everything, and there was my face, though a little distorted, one flat white cheek pressed up against that curving window, peering out at all of the world and all that was in it, from the inside out, for the very first time.
The lid of its box had a colorful picture of a four-masted clipper unzipping a blue ocean that had been loosely
laid out, its folds rolling, its opened lapels showing a foamy white lining, far more color right there on that flat
cardboard carton than on the millions of pieces inside, all the same gray like lead soldiers, and all fastened
together, tab to tab, plastic cast as one piece, much like the long folds of dolls that my Grandmother Kooser
snipped out of the Ames Daily Tribune just to entertain me and my sister, though all that had happened before
I’d grown older and ready to take on an expensive, elaborate ship-model kit with an accordion-fold of thin
paper instructions, hundreds of words I had almost no patience for reading, wanting to start where I wanted to
start, gluing together the few pieces I recognized, laying the miniature oars over the laps of the lifeboats,
etc., but this time I made myself follow directions, having made wastes of other such kits—fighter planes,
locomotives and cars—and I laid it all out in my room on a card-table, the halves of the hull, all the sails,
full, quarter and jib, like seashells, all of the miscellaneous pieces that a ship had to have to be real,
right down to the thin little ladders of rigging to climb to the yardarms, there to sit, keeping my balance
despite a stiff breeze, looking out over the sea of my room, the night with its crickets like ropes and spars
creaking below my screen window, the waves I could feel going slack at their edges, the faraway harbors
with their busy bazaars going quiet, the salty nets drawn up and drying, their glass floats like small bubbles
in the night’s iridescence, as I bent squinting over the bits of that ship I was building to dream me away.
Poet Dennis Held Pays Tribute to Ted Kooser and His Lifelong Contributions to Poetry
Ted Kooser’s poems reveal a receptivity to a wide and various range of experiences—physical, yes, which is often the focus of those who write about his work; but also mental and emotional. And his adept handling of the conversation between thought and feeling is remarkable. Given the emphasis on abstract expressionism—to use one shorthand phrase—that pervades much of the poetry that makes its way into the public’s eye, the work he’s published for more than 800 columns, when placed beside his own books, stands as a testament to the continued impact of the power of clarity of expression when combined with imaginative searching.
Ted Kooser, at age 81, recently retired from teaching at the University of Nebraska and is at long last done with making a living. His most recent book is Red Stilts, from Copper Canyon Press, and he and Connie Wanek have a collaborative children’s picture book in production at Candlewick Press, which has done four of Ted’s books for young people.