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American Life in Poetry

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate

 

Leonard Nathan is a master of short poems in which two or three figures are placed on what can be seen to be a stage, as in a drama. Here, as in other poems like it, the speaker’s sentences are rich with implications. This is the title work from Nathan’s book from Orchises Press (1999):

 

The Potato Eaters

Sometimes, the naked taste of potato

reminds me of being poor.

The first bites are gratitude,

the rest, contented boredom.

The little kitchen still flickers

like a candle-lit room in a folktale.

Never again was my father so angry,

my mother so still as she set the table,

or I so much at home.

 

Reprinted by permission of the author, whose most recent book is Tears of the Old Magician, Orchises Press, 2003. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

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