Two Poems by Ted Kooser

In Darkness

From a porch swing, in under the dark of a roof,
and to keep the chains quiet, not swinging, I watched
somebody walk past with a flashlight, a woman
or man—there was no way of telling—a vague shape,

only part of the night, the beam’s end out in front
on an extendable leash, the small circle of light
scampering side to side, running forward to sniff
what was ahead, sometimes waiting a moment

for the person to catch up, then trotting in front,
as if proud of itself. It was a white Pomeranian
of light, or maybe a white miniature poodle,
I felt certain, and it was clearly excited to be out

for a walk after dark on a cool, starless and moonless
night in late summer. On up the street it tugged,
straining a little as if dragging the darkness behind,
pulling it over the now-fading scuffing of footfalls.


The Boat of the Past

Barefoot and wearing a robe and pajamas
he follows a dewy, worn path to a dock,
walks out to the end, and slowly climbs

down into the leaky Boat of the Past, tied
and waiting. And though it’s already full
of his memories it accepts him, settling

a little, slightly rocking, parts of the past
washing around him. He stored the oars
long ago, there being nothing left out there

to row toward but dizzying light, nothing
he wanted to net and bring back. These days
he just snatches up this or that memory,

lifts it into the light, wipes it dry on his robe.
One of these days someone will show up
while he’s dreaming, unknot the rope,

put a foot on the stern and shove, pushing
him onto the future, but for now he’ll just sit
in the sun, its hands warm on his shoulders.


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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