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American Life in Poetry
by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

Some of the most telling poetry being written in our country today has to do with the smallest and briefest of pleasures. Here Marie Howe of New York captures a magical moment: sitting in the shelter of a leafy tree with the rain falling all around.

The Copper Beech

Immense, entirely itself,

it wore that yard like
a dress,

with limbs low enough for me to enter it and climb the crooked ladder to where

I could lean against the trunk and practice being alone.

One day, I heard the sound before I saw it, rain fell darkening the sidewalk.

Sitting close to the
center, not very high in the branches, I heard it hitting the high leaves, and I was happy,

watching it happen
without it happening
to me.

Reprinted from What the Living Do, W. W. Norton & Co., 1997. Copyright 1997 by Marie Howe. 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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