from the issue of October 12, 2006
| American Life in Poetry
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006
One of poetry's traditional public services is the presentation of elegies in honor of the dead. Here James McKean remembers a colorful friend and neighbor.
Elegy for an Old Boxer
From my window
I watch the roots of a willow
push your house crooked,
women rummage through boxes,
your sons cart away the TV, its cord
trailing like your useless arms.
Only weeks ago we watched
and between rounds you pummeled
drank whiskey, admonished "Know
You did, Kansas, the '20s
when you measured the town champ
as he danced the same dance over
left foot, right lead, head down,
the move you'd dreamt about for days.
Then right on cue your hay-bale
compressed his spine. You know. That
Now your mail piles up, RESIDENT
"not here." Your lawn goes to seed.
burst in the wind. From my window
I see you flat on your back
on some canvas,
above you a wrinkled face,
its clippy bow tie
bobbing toward ten. There's
someone behind you,
resting easy against the ropes,
a last minute substitute on the card
so well, vaguely familiar, taken
with a sucker punch you don't
ever having seen.
Reprinted from "Headlong," University of Utah Press, 1987, by permission of the author. First published in "Prairie Schooner," Vol. 53, No. 3, (Fall 1979). Copyright (c) 1979 by James McKean, whose latest book is nonfiction, "Home Stand: Growing up in Sports", Michigan State University Press, 2005. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the UNL Department of English. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
GO TO: ISSUE OF OCTOBER 12
ARTS HEADLINES FOR OCTOBER 12
Hillestad Gallery hosts "Celebration of Youth"
American Life in Poetry
Bo Diddley to play Lied Center Oct. 14
Film preserves Texas band's rise to music industry leader
Honey's book examines forgotten Harlem Renaissance poets
NET hosts filmmaker workshop
Photos examine Harlem Renaissance
'Rent' plays Oct. 17-18
Rips memoir reading Oct. 19
Visiting artist offers presentations, juries student book art exhibition