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American Life in Poetry

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

For every one of those faces pictured on the obituary page, thousands of memories have been swept out of the world, never to be recovered. I encourage everyone to write down their memories before it’s too late. Here’s a fine example of that by Margaret Hasse, who lives in Minnesota.

 

Truant

Our high school principal wagged his finger

over two manila folders

lying on his desk, labeled with our names—

my boyfriend and me—

called to his office for skipping school.

 

The day before, we ditched Latin and world history

to chase shadows of clouds on a motorcycle.

We roared down rolling asphalt roads

through the Missouri River bottoms

beyond town, our heads emptied

of review tests and future plans.

 

We stopped on a dirt lane to hear

a meadowlark’s liquid song, smell

heart-break blossom of wild plum.

Beyond leaning fence posts and barbwire,

a tractor drew straight lines across the field

unfurling its cape of blackbirds.

 

Now forty years after that geography lesson

in spring, I remember the principal’s words.

How right he was in saying:

This will be part of

your permanent record.

 

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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