Arts & Culture » Culture

American Life in Poetry

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

Here is a lovely poem about survival by Patrick Phillips of New York. People sometimes ask me "What are poems for?" and "Matinee" is an example of the kind of writing that serves its readers, that shows us a way of carrying on.


After the biopsy,

after the bone scan,

after the consult and the crying,

for a few hours no one could find them,

not even my sister,

because it turns out

they’d gone to the movies.

Something tragic was playing,

something epic,

and so they went to the comedy

with their popcorn

and their cokes,

the old wife whispering everything twice, the old husband cupping a palm to his ear,

as the late sun lit up an orchard

behind the strip mall,

and they sat in the dark holding hands.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 2006 by Patrick Phillips, whose latest book is Chattahoochee, University of Arkansas Press, 2004. Reprinted from the Greensboro Review, Fall 2006, No. 80, with permission of the author. Introduction copyright 2006 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. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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