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  Copyright by Stephen Wilbers


American Life in Poetry

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

Almost every week I read in our local newspaper that some custodial parent has had to call in the law to stand by while a child is transferred to its other parent amidst some post-divorce hostility. So it’s a pleasure to read this poem by Elise Hempel, who lives in Illinois, in which the transfer is attended only by a little heartache.

The Transfer

His car rolls up to the curb, you switch

your mood, which doll to bring and rush


out again on the sliding steps

of your shoes half-on, forgetting to zip


your new pink coat in thirty degrees,

teeth and hair not brushed, already


passing the birch, mid-way between us,

too far to hear my fading voice


calling my rope of reminders as I

lean out in my robe, another Saturday


morning you’re pulled toward his smile, his gifts,

sweeping on two flattened rafts


from mine to his, your fleeting wave

down the rapids of the drive.


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

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