That was I

A poem from U.S. poet laureate Ted Kooser's Pulitzer prize-winning book.


I was that older man you saw sitting
in a confetti of yellow light and falling leaves
on a bench at the empty horseshoe courts
in Thayer, Nebraska--brown jacket, soft cap,
wiping my glasses. I had noticed, of course,
that the rows of sunken horseshoe pits
with their rusty stakes, grown out over the grass,
were like old graves, but I was not letting
my thoughts go there. Instead I was looking
with hope to a grapevine draped over
a fence in a neighboring yard, and knowing
that I could hold on. Yes, that was I.

And that was I, the round-shouldered man
you saw that afternoon in Rising City
as you drove past the abandoned Mini Golf,
fists deep in my pockets, nose dripping,
my cap pulled down against the wind
as I walked the miniature Main Street
peering into the child-size plywood store,
the poor red school, the faded barn, thinking
that not even in such an abbreviated world
with no more than its little events--the snap
of a grasshopper’s wing against a paper cup--
could a person control this life. Yes, that was I.

And that was I you spotted that evening
just before dark, in a weedy cemetery
west of Staplehurst, down on one knee
as if trying to make out the name on a stone,
some lonely old man, you thought, come there
to pity himself in the reliable sadness
of grass among graves, but that was not so.
Instead I had found in its perfect web
a handsome black and yellow spider
pumping its legs to try to shake my footing
as if I were a gift, an enormous moth
that it could snare and eat. Yes, that was I.

From Delights & Shadows, copyright 2004 by Ted Kooser. Reprinted with permission from Copper Canyon Press. Available from the UUA Bookstore (see link below).

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