Nebraska’s Ted Kooser, U.S. poet laureate from 2004 to 2006, offers “American Life in Poetry,” a column on contemporary poetry.
It pains an old booklover like me to think of somebody burning a book, but if you’ve gotten one for a quarter and it’s falling apart, well, maybe it’s OK as long as you might be planning to pick up a better copy. Here Ron Koertge, who lives in Pasadena, has some fun with the ashes of love poems.
Burning the Book
The anthology of love poems I bought
for a quarter is brittle, anyway, and comes
apart when I read it.
One at a time, I throw pages on the fire
and watch smoke make its way up
I’m almost to the index when I hear
a murmuring in the street. My neighbors
are watching it snow.
I put on my blue jacket and join them.
The children stand with their mouths
I can see nouns — longing, rapture, bliss —
land on every tongue, then disappear.
Poem copyright ©2012 by Ron Koertge, whose most recent book of poems is “Fever,” Red Hen Press, 2006. Poem reprinted by permission of Ron Koertge. Introduction copyright © 2013 by The Poetry Foundation.