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Ted Kooser

American Life in Poetry: From a Bridge

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Morris,Minnesota 56267
Morris Sun Tribune
American Life in Poetry: From a Bridge
Morris Minnesota 607 Pacific Avenue 56267

David St. John is a California poet whose meticulous care with every word has always impressed me. This poem is a fine example of how clarity can let us see all the way to the heart.


From a Bridge

I saw my mother standing there below me

On the narrow bank just looking out over the river

Looking at something just beyond the taut middle rope

Of the braided swirling currents

Then she looked up quite suddenly to the far bank

Where the densely twined limbs of the cypress

Twisted violently toward the storm-struck sky

There are some things we know before we know

Also some things we wish we would not ever know

Even if as children we already knew & so

Standing above her on that bridge that shuddered

Each time the river ripped at its wooden pilings

I knew I could never even fate willing ever

Get to her in time

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 ©2011 by David St. John, whose new collection, The Auroras, is forthcoming from Harper Collins. Poem reprinted from Poetry, July/August 2011, by permission of David St. John and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2012 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.