If at times your world seems flat and uninteresting, I recommend making a cardboard viewfinder with a postage-stamp sized window. Then look at what’s around you through that. I think you’ll be pleased and surprised by how much you can see when the rest is pushed outside of the frame. This poem is from my book “Kindest Regards,” published by Copper Canyon Press.

Passing Through

I had driven into one side of a city,

and through it, and was on the way out

on a four-lane, caught up in the traffic,

when I happened to glance to my right

where a man stood alone smoking,

fixed in the shade of a windowless

warehouse, leaning back into a wall

with one shoe cocked against it,

the other one flat on the pavement.

He was beside me for only an instant,

wearing a short-sleeved yellow shirt

and gray work pants, as the hand

that held the cigarette swept out

and away, and he turned to watch it

as with the tip of a finger he tapped

once at the ash, which began to drift

into that moment already behind us,

as I, with the others, sped on.

We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2018 by Ted Kooser, “Passing Through,” from Kindest Regards, (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Ted Kooser and the publisher. Introduction copyright @ 2019 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.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.