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American Life in Poetry: 14

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American Life in Poetry: 14
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By Ted Kooser

Don Welch lives in Nebraska and is one of those many talented American poets who have never received as much attention as they deserve. His poems are distinguished by the meticulous care he puts into writing them, and by their deep intelligence. Here is Welch's picture of a 14-year-old, captured at that awkward and painfully vulnerable step on the way to adulthood.


At 14

To be shy,

to lower your eyes

after making a greeting.

to know

wherever you go

you'll be called on,

to fear

whoever you're near

will ask you,

to wear

the softer sides of the air

in rooms filled with angers,

your ship

always docked

in transparent slips

whose wharves

are sheerer than membranes.

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 (c)2008 by Don Welch. Reprinted from "When Memory Gives Dust a Face," by Don Welch, published by Lewis-Clark Press, 2008, by permission of Don Welch and the publisher. Introduction copyright (c) 2009 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.