American Life in Poetry 

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

At some time many of us will have to make a last visit to a house where aged parents lived out their days. Here Marge Saiser beautifully compresses one such farewell.


Where They Lived

One last time I unlock

the house where they lived

and fought and tried again:

the air of the place,

carpet with its unchanging green,

chair with its back to me.

On the TV set, the Christmas cactus

has bloomed, has spilled its pink flowers

down its scraggly arms

and died, drying into paper.

At the round oak table,

ghosts lean toward one another,

almost a bow, before rising,

before ambling away.


Reprinted by permission of Marjorie Saiser, whose most recent book of poems is Lost in Seward County, Backwaters Press, 2001. Copyright 2006 by Marjorie Saiser. 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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