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Poetry

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I'm very fond of poems in which the poet stands at a distance from whatever is going on and offers a report. This poem by Dorianne Laux, from her book What We Carry, (BOA Editions, Ltd.), gives us the flavor of an entire high school homecoming by observing just one father and daughter. And the third person in this third-person poem is, of course, the poet. Laux lives in North Carolina.

***

At the high school football game, the boys

stroke their new muscles, the girls sweeten their lips

with gloss that smells of bubblegum, candy cane,

or cinnamon. In pleated cheerleader skirts

they walk home with each other, practicing yells,

their long bare legs forming in the dark.

Under the arched field lights a girl

in a velvet prom dress stands near the chainlink,

a cone of roses held between her breasts.

Her lanky father, in a corduroy suit, leans

against the fence. While they talk, she slips a foot

in and out of a new white pump, fingers the weave

of her French braid, the glittering earrings.

They could be a couple on their first date, she,

a little shy, he, trying to impress her

with his casual stance. This is the moment

when she learns what she will love: a warm night,

the feel of nylon between her thighs, the fine hairs

on her arms lifting when a breeze

sifts in through the bleachers, cars

igniting their engines, a man bending over her,

smelling the flowers pressed against her neck.

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 ©1994 by Dorianne Laux, “Homecoming,” from What We Carry, (BOA Editions, 1994). Poem reprinted by permission of Dorianne Laux 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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