meeting after years

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A Meeting after Many Years
Ted Kooser

Our words were a few colorful leaves
afloat on a very old silence,
the kind with a terrifying undertow,
and we stood right at its edge,
wrapping ourselves in our own arms
because of the chill, and with old voices
called back and forth across all those years
until we could bear it no longer,
and turned from each other,
and walked away into our countries.

Photo by Greg Shield on Unsplash

fragile old heart

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A Map of the World
Ted Kooser

One of the ancient maps of the world
is heart-shaped, carefully drawn
and once washed with bright colors,
though the colors have faded
as you might expect feelings to fade
from a fragile old heart, the brown map
of a life. But feeling is indelible,
and longing infinite, a starburst compass
pouting in all the directions
two lovers might go, a fresh breeze
swelling their sails, the future uncharted,
still far from the edge
where the sea pours into the stars.

splitting an order

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Splitting an Order
Ted Kooser
I like to watch an old man cutting a sandwich in half,
maybe an ordinary cold roast beef on whole wheat bread,
no pickles or onion, keeping his shaky hands steady
by placing his forearms firm on the edge of the table
and using both hands, the left to hold the sandwich in place,
and the right to cut it surely, corner to corner,
observing his progress through glasses that moments before
he wiped with his napkin, and then to see him lift half
onto the extra plate that he had asked the server to bring,
and then to wait, offering the plate to his wife
while she slowly unrolls her napkin and places her spoon,
her knife and her fork in their proper places,
then smoothes the starched white napkin over her knees
and meets his eyes and holds out both old hands to him.

this paper boat

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This Paper Boat
Ted Kooser

Carefully placed upon the future,
it tips from the breeze and skims away,
frail thing of words, this valentine,
so far to sail. And if you find it
caught in the reeds, its message blurred,
the thought that you are holding it
a moment is enough for me.

the sigh

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The Sigh
Ted Kooser
You lie in your bed and sigh
and the springs deep in the mattress
sing out with the same low note,
mocking your sadness. It’s hard––
not the mattress, but life.
Life is hard. All along
you thought you could trust in
your own bed, your own sorrow.
You thought you were sleeping alone.

widow

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A Widow
Ted Kooser
She’s combed his neckties out of her hair
and torn out the tongues of his shoes.
She’s poured his ashes out of their urn
and into his humidor. For the very last time,
she’s scrubbed the floor around the toilet.
She hates him even more for dying.

pocket

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Pocket Poem
Ted Kooser
If this comes creased and creased again and soiled
as if I’d opened it a thousand times
to see if what I’d written here was right,
it’s all because I looked too long for you
to put in your pocket. Midnight says
the little gifts of loneliness come wrapped
by nervous fingers. What I wanted this
to say was that I want to be so close
that when you find it, it is warm from me.