Two Poems by Ted Kooser

Three Leaves

The first from a cottonwood, a rag
of a leaf, yellow with green stains,
the kind you might pick up by one
corner and cautiously sniff, a strange
oily paraffin odor. Next, from an elm,
in that dusty, green bleached down
to brown paint of a ’48 Plymouth,
rust holes all over it, the wind
pushing it rattling over a sidewalk,
then tipping it into the gutter.
Then one from an oak of some kind,
with the scuffed leatherette brown
of an old Samsonite suitcase, long
out of fashion, our last leaf today,
part of a matching set, handed down
autumn to autumn.


Dust Bath

Had it not been a good path
to scuff to the barn in the evening,
across the low slope of a hillside,
this shallow rut—with today one
brown cow in the lead, seven
following, heavy heads nodding
and blowing—would be grass
like the rest of the pasture, but
just now it leads up to and then
on from a place that stays put,
a shallow around which a kingbird
is flying as it waits for the last
cow to clop past before flitting in
for a vigorous dusting, just a puff
from this distance, like smoke
from a cannon that’s so far away
you can see it, not hear it, then
the bird shooting out and away,
too small and too far for an echo.


Ted Kooser is, at 82, fully retired from teaching and public appearances but writing every day at his home in rural Nebraska. His most recent collection of poems is a fine letterpress limited printing of A SUITE OF MOONS, from Gibraltar Editions in Omaha. He is a former U. S. Poet Laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

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