American Life in Poetry, by Ted Kooser
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. Introduction copyright © 2013 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.
Poor Richard’s Almanac said, “He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas,” but that hasn’t kept some of us from sleeping with our dogs. Here’s a poem about the pleasure of that, by Joyce Sidman, who lives and sleeps in Montana. Her book, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, won a 2011 Newbery Honor Award.
Dog in Bed
Nose tucked under tail,
you are a warm, furred planet
centered in my bed.
All night I orbit, tangle-limbed,
in the slim space
allotted to me.
If I accidentally
bump you from sleep,
you shift, groan,
drape your chin on my hip.
O, that languid, movie-star drape!
I can never resist it.
Digging my fingers into your fur,
How do you dream?
What do you adore?
Why should your black silk ears
feel like happiness?
This is how it is with love.
it steps in gently,
and takes up as much space
as you will give it.
Poem copyright ©2003 by Joyce Sidman, whose most recent book of poems is Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011. Poem reprinted from The World According to Dog, Houghton Mifflin, 2003
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Lots of us find ourselves under the interested fingers of dermatologists, who prosper on the fun we once had out in the sun.
Here George Bilgere of Ohio, one of our most amusing American poets, sits back in his skin doctor’s chair and reminisces about a party that took place years ago.
The sun is still burning in my skin
even though it set half-an-hour ago,
and Cindy and Bob and Bev and John
are pulling on their sweatshirts
and gathering around the fire pit.
John hands me a cold one
and now Bev comes into my arms
and I can feel the sun’s heat,
and taste the Pacific on her cheek.
I am not in Vietnam,
nor is John or Bob, because
our deferments came through,
and we get to remain boys
for at least another summer
like this one in Santa Cruz,
surfing the afternoons in a sweet
blue dream I’m remembering now,
as the nurse puts my cheek to sleep,
and the doctor begins to burn
those summers away.
Poem copyright ©2012 by George Bilgere, whose most recent book of poems is The White Museum, Autumn House Press, 2010.