American Life in Poetry

Column 594

Readers of this column have probably noticed how much I love poems that give us new ways of
looking at things, and in this example Faith Shearin does just that. I especially like “four-legged
relative / of the moon,” which so perfectly describes the coat of a possum in partial light. Shearin
lives in West Virginia and her most recent book is Orpheus, Turning, from The Broadkill River
Press.

Possum in the Garbageopossum-47631_1280
He was a surprise of white: his teeth
like knives, his face a triangle
of albino dislike. I had seen him before,
on our back porch, where my father
sometimes left watermelon rinds,
and he dipped his tongue into them,
his skin glowing beneath our lights,
like some four-legged relative
of the moon. I knew him
as a citizen of the night:
a fainting, ghostly presence
with a tail so naked it was
embarrassed to drag behind him.
But that morning, terrified and violent,
he was different: a hissing fury
at the bottom of the garbage can,
a vampire bathed in light.

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 ©2015 by Faith Shearin, “Possum in the Garbage,” from Orpheus,Turning, (The Broadkill River Press, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Faith Shearin and the publisher.

Column 396

I’m not alone in noticing how time accelerates as we grow older, and as the seasons grow ever
more brief the holidays are gone in a wink. This poem by Nancy Price about Halloween catches
a little of that. She’s an Iowan whose poems are so heartfelt, clear and useful that we could run
them every week and none of you would complain.

Trick or Treathalloween-1679591_1920
The ghost is a torn sheet,
the skeleton’s suit came from a rack in a store
the witch is flameproof, but who knows
what dark streets they have taken here?
Brother Death, here is a candy bar.
For the lady wearing the hat from Salem: gum.
And a penny for each eye, Lost Soul.
They fade away with their heavy sacks.
Thanks! I yell just in time.
                       Thanks for another year!

Poem copyright ©2007 by Nancy Price from her book of poetry Two Voices and a Moon, Malmarie Press, 2007. Reprinted by permission of Nancy Price.

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. 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.