American Life in Poetry

Sep 19, 2007 at 12:00 am
By Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

North Carolina poet, Betty Adcock, has written scores of beautiful poems, almost all of them too long for this space. Here is an example of her shorter work, the telling description of a run-down border town.


Louisiana Line

The wooden scent of wagons,

the sweat of animals--these places

keep everything--breath of the cotton gin, black damp floors of the icehouse.

Shadows the color of a mirror's back

break across faces. The luck

is always bad. This light is brittle,

old pale hair kept in a letter.

The wheeze of porch swings and lopped gates seeps from new mortar.

Wind from an axe that struck wood

a hundred years ago

lifts the thin flags of the town.



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) 1975 by Betty Adcock. Reprinted from Walking Out, Louisiana State University Press, 1975, with permission of Betty Adcock, whose most recent book is Intervale: New and Selected Poems, Louisiana State University Press, 2001. Introduction copyright (c) 2006 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.