News & Views » Columns

Art Bar

comment

American Life in Poetry

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

One in a series of elegies by New York City poet Catherine Barnett, this poem describes the first gathering after death has shaken a family to its core. The father tries to help his grown daughter forget for a moment that, a year earlier, her own two daughters were killed, that she is now alone. He’s heartsick, realizing that drinking can only momentarily ease her pain, a pain and love that takes hold of the entire family. The children who join her in the field are silent guardians.

Family Reunion

My father scolded us all for refusing his liquor.

He kept buying tequila, and steak for the grill, until finally we joined him, making margaritas, cutting the fat off the bone.

When he saw how we drank, my sister

shredding the black labels into her glass while his remaining grandchildren dragged their thin bunk bed mattresses

first out to the lawn to play

then farther up the field to sleep next to her, I think it was then he changed, something in him died. He’s gentler now,

quiet, losing weight though every night he eats the same ice cream he always ate only now he’s not drinking, he doesn’t fall asleep with the spoon in his hand,

he waits for my mother to come lie down with him.

 

Reprinted from Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced, Alice James Books, 2004, by permission of the author. Copyright 2004 by Catherine Barnett. 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. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.