American Life in Poetry

By Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate

Often everyday experiences provide poets with inspiration. Here Georgiana Cohen observes a woman looking out her window and compares the woman to the sunset. The woman's "slumped" chin, the fence that separates them, and the "beached" cars set the poem's tone; this is clearly not a celebration of the neighborhood. Yet by turning to clouds, sky, and breath, Cohen underscores the scene's fragile grace.


Old Woman in a Housecoat

An old woman in

a floor-length housecoat

has become sunset

to me, west-facing.

Turquoise, sage, or rose,

she leans out of her

second floor window,

chin slumped in her palm,

and gazes at the

fenced property line

between us, the cars

beached in the driveway,

the creeping slide of

light across shingles.

When the window shuts,

dusk becomes blush and

bruises, projected

on vinyl siding.

Housecoats breathe across

the sky like frail clouds.


Reprinted from "Cream City Review," 2004, by permission of the author, a writer and journalist living in Boston.  Poem copyright 2004 by Georgiana Cohen. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

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