American Life in Poetry: Column 349

Here’s a fine poem about a cricket by Catherine Tufariello, who lives in Indiana. I especially admire the way in which she uses rhyme without it ever taking control of the poetry, the way rhyme can.

The Cricket in the Sump
He falls abruptly silent when we fling
A basket down or bang the dryer shut,

But soon takes up again where he left off.

Swept by a rainstorm through a narrow trough

Clotted with cobwebs into Lord knows what

Impenetrable murk, he’s undeterred –
You’d think his dauntless solo was a chorus,

This rusty sump, a field or forest spring.

And there is something wondrous and absurd

About the way he does as he is bidden

By instinct, with his gift for staying hidden

While making sure unseen is plainly heard.

All afternoon his tremolo ascends

Clear to the second story, where a girl

Who also has learned blithely to ignore us

Sings to herself behind her bedroom door.

Maybe she moves to her invented score

With a conductor’s flourish, or pretends

She’s a Spanish dancer, lost in stamp and whirl

And waving fan – notes floating, as she plays,

Through the open window where the willow sways

And shimmers, humming to another string.

There is no story where the story ends.

What does a singer live for but to sing?

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Catherine Tufariello, whose first book of poetry is Keeping My Name, Texas Tech, 2004. Reprinted from Able Muse, Inaugural Print Issue, Winter 2010, by permission of Catherine Tufariello and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2011 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.