Denise Low: “Two Gates”

American Life in Poetry: Column 350

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

The persons we are when we are young are probably buried somewhere within us when we’ve grown old. Denise Low, who was the Kansas poet laureate, takes a look at a younger version of herself in this telling poem.

Two Gates

I look through glass and see a young woman
of twenty, washing dishes, and the window
turns into a painting. She is myself thirty years ago.
She holds the same blue bowls and brass teapot
I still own. I see her outline against lamplight;
she knows only her side of the pane. The porch
where I stand is empty. Sunlight fades. I hear
water run in the sink as she lowers her head,
blind to the future. She does not imagine I exist.

I step forward for a better look and she dissolves
into lumber and paint. A gate I passed through
to the next life loses shape. Once more I stand
squared into the present, among maple trees
and scissor-tailed birds, in a garden, almost
a mother to that faint, distant woman.

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