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Do we ever really know our parents, know what they're thinking, know why they do what they do? Here's a poem touching upon those mysteries. It first appeared in Field. Jon Loomis is a poet from Wisconsin, and his most recent book is The Mansion of Happiness, from Oberlin College Press.


Wind and the sound of wind —

across the bay a chainsaw revs

and stalls. I've come here to write,


but instead I've been thinking

about my father, who, in his last year,

after his surgery, told my mother


he wasn't sorry — that he'd cried

when the other woman left him,

that his time with her


had made him happier than anything

he'd ever done. And my mother,

who'd cooked and cleaned for him


all those years, cared for him

after his heart attack, could not

understand why he liked the other


woman more than her,

but he did. And she told me

that after he died she never went


to visit his grave — not once.

You think you know them,

these creatures robed


in your parents' skins. Well,

you don't. Any more than you know

what the pines want from the wind,


if the lake's content with this pale

smear of sunset, if the loon calls

for its mate, or for another.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 by Jon Loomis, “At the Lake House,” from Field, (No. 95, Fall 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Jon Loomis and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2017 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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