Sunday, 11 April 2021

American Life in Poetry: Sheltered in Place

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

There will be many, many poems written about these days of great fear the world is enduring, just as there were after 9/11, and I like to think this one by Richard Levine, who lives in Brooklyn, will have long legs, one generation leading the next as they walk together into an uncertain future. His most recent book is Richard Levine: Selected Poems, (Future Cycle Press, 2019).

Sheltered in Place

You watch your boy struggle with giving
up the turtle, returning it to the pond
where he’d found it on a walk—
first time you’d all been out in days.

How thoughtful he thought he’d been,
making it a home in the home
where the family sheltered in place.
How he cared for his armored friend.

Having picked flowers, knowing they’d die,
you understand the urge to pluck
the exotic, the beautiful—any diversion
from fear, which is in itself a disease.

That morning, you helped your boy
give up the idea of living forever.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It 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 ©2020 by Richard Levine, “Sheltered in Place.” Poem reprinted by permission of Richard Levine. Introduction copyright @2020 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.

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