American Life in Poetry: Column 079
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006
The news coverage of Hurricane Katrina gave America a vivid look at our poor and powerless neighbors. Here Alex Phillips of Massachusetts condenses his observations of our country's underclass into a wise, tough little poem.
To be poor and raise skinny children.
To own nothing but skinny clothing.
Skinny food falls in between cracks.
Friends cannot visit your skinny home.
They cannot fit through the door.
Your skinny thoughts evaporate into
the day or the night that you cannot
see with your tiny eyes.
God sticks you with the smallest pins
and your blood, the red is diluted.
Imagine a tiny hole, the other side
of which is a fat world and how
lost you would feel. Of course,
I'm speaking to myself.
How lost I would feel, and how dangerous.
Reprinted from "Open City," Winter 2005-2006, No. 21, by permission of the poet. Copyright © 2005 by Alex Phillips, whose chapbook "Under a Paper Trellis" is forthcoming from Factory Hollow Press. 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.