Writing for Business and Pleasure            Home
  Copyright by Stephen Wilbers


American Life in Poetry

A feature provided by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

Poetry has room for everything and everybody, for every subject and object. Here’s a poem by Sharon Chmielarz, a Minnesota poet, on a subject I’ve never seen written about. And poetry, and American Life in Poetry in particular, now welcomes pillow cleaners!

The Pillow Cleaners Come to Town

and turn the senior citizen center

into an automated assembly line.


Goodbye, dross of long winter nights.

Farewell, old skin cells and reek:


what couldn’t come clean on a clothesline.

Bundles of pillows, caroming, bouncing,


sloshing along, even as more

mistresses of pillows hurry through the door,


hugging stained sacks of feathers

like thoughts kept well past prime.


Sure, they should’ve been thrown out

long ago but—we paid so dearly for them.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.


"If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry."
    -- Emily Dickinson

This Northern Nonsense: Poems by Stephen Wilbers

Poem for Dale Schatzlein