American Life in Poetry: Column 380

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Lots of contemporary poems are merely little personal anecdotes set into lines, but I prefer my anecdotes to have an overlay of magic. Here’s just such a poem by Shawn Pittard, who lives in California.

The Silver Fish

I killed a great silver fish,
          cut him open with a long

thin knife. The river carried
          his heart away. I took his

dead eyes home. His red flesh
          sang to me on the fire I built

in my backyard. His taste
          was the lost memory of my

wildness. Behind amber clouds
          of cedar smoke, Orion

drew his bow. A black moon rose
          from the night’s dark waters,

a sliver of its bright face
          reflecting back into the universe.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2011 by Shawn Pittard, from his most recent book of poems, Standing in the River, Tebot Bach, 2011. Poem reprinted by permission of Shawn Pittard and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2012 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. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.